The Cigarette Waste Recycling Program, an initiative by the Pearl District Neighborhood Association, was started by Dave Mitchell. “The program is designed to collect as many cigarette butts as we can, using 65 receptacles that are attached to parking poles,” explained Mitchell. He put up cigarette disposal boxes around the neighborhood in 2019 where smokers can safely discard the waste.
They’ve collected over 100,000 butts in the past year that otherwise would have ended up on the street or in a storm drain, then the river. The cigarette litter can leach toxic chemicals and contaminate water. “This is our little way of trying to make life a little better for the environment and I think we’re having an impact,” said Mitchell.
The impact has a national reach. The collected butts are shipped to a plant in New Jersey called TerraCycle. The company recycles the plastic waste in them and partners with companies to turn them into new products like lawn furniture. For John Gillette, the repurposing of the butts is one more reason to keep up his patrols in the Pearl. “The pleasure of when you walk – to see the street looks clean, knowing that you’re preventing toxic pollution, that’s a positive also.”