I am a student involved in the College of William and Mary’s EcoAmbassador internship program. My project involves looking at the extent and impacts of cigarette butt litter on campus. Cigarettes are the most littered item in the world, and our campus is no exception. More often than not, the problems people associate with cigarettes are health related; people rarely realize the damage cigarettes cause goes beyond the impacts on the smoker.
This project came about partially because of observations of cigarette butt build-up around campus grounds, and partially because these butts were getting washed into storm drains. Between the student body, faculty and staff, and Colonial Williamsburg visitors, our campus is pretty highly trafficked, and more people leads to more litter.
There are over 50 smoking outposts for cigarette butts to be deposited on campus, and yet an enormous amount of litter ends up on the ground.
Last semester was dedicated to mapping out locations of smoking outposts across campus, as well as noting locations of excess litter, and coming up with recommendations for how to improve the litter situation. The College has a smoking policy stating no one can smoke within 25 feet of a building entrance or exit. Finding a balance of adhering to campus policy, and placing outposts in convenient locations where they will actually be utilized is an ongoing challenge. There are over 50 smoking outposts for cigarette butts to be deposited on campus, and yet an enormous amount of litter ends up on the ground. Certain areas of campus have more outposts than others, and while this leaves some areas lacking accessible receptacles, it is usually done with a purpose. Some locations have higher traffic, which leads to more cigarette litter and a need for more cigarette receptacles.
Through this program, we are taking steps to lessen the extent of cigarette litter on the College’s campus.
Cigarette litter probably isn’t caused by malicious intent, or even a lack of outposts, but instead by people who drop their cigarette butts because they don’t realize the effect of what they are doing. It’s even easy to argue that someone is trying to be responsible and fully extinguish their cigarette butt by stepping on it, or dropping it down a drain. Cigarettes are so small; some might not realize the impact they have on the environment. In fact, cigarettes have plastic filters in them, which do not readily biodegrade. These filters, as well as the rest of the cigarette, leach chemicals into the environment, get ingested by animals and end up in water systems we are responsible for keeping clean, like Lake Matoaka and the Crim Dell.
Through this program, we are taking steps to lessen the extent of cigarette litter on the College’s campus. During the process of mapping out smoking outposts, broken outposts that weren’t functioning properly were repaired. Additionally, we are exploring the possibility of adding new outposts to locations that are lacking. In an ideal world, we could solve the problem of excessive litter if everyone quit smoking; the Student Health Center is available for appointments to help anyone interested in finding tools and resources that will work for them. Outside of that solution, providing proper smoking outposts as well as education on the harms cigarette butts cause the environment is a great way to protect our campus environment. Hopefully with the help of this program, not only will physical steps be taken to improve the current problem of unnecessary cigarette litter, but awareness will spread to prevent more cigarette litter in the future.
Email Kacey Schwartz at [email protected]