What to do about the 176 million pounds of cigarette butts discarded on sidewalks, beaches, and other places every year in the U.S.? Put a penny bounty on each one, says a lawmaker.
New York State Assemblyman Michael G. DenDekker has introduced legislation that would “slap a one-cent deposit on every cigarette sold in the state—to be redeemed when the butts are turned in for ‘recycling,’” the New York Post reports. “Just as people pick up…bottles and cans, people will pick up filters (from the street),” Assemblyman Michael G. DenDekker said.
The 20 cents deposit money generated from each pack of cigarettes would be used to fund a statewide cigarette butt recycling program. DenDekker, a former smoker of 30 years, told The New York Times he “doesn’t care” that smokers would have to pay more. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but look at the amount of waste that cigarette butts cause in our cities.”
“Cigarette butts have immediate dangers and long side effects,” The Times reports. “Small children sometimes pick up them up and eat them; additionally toxins remaining in the butts can leach into the environment and poison fish.” So far, creative uses for recycled butts include a solution that protects steel pipes from corrosion to another from a Brazilian fashion designer who dyes the butts and spins them with sheep wool into clothing. According to the Times, there is no known cigarette recycling program anywhere in the U.S.
“This is something that is going to be a long process,” DenDekker says. “But imagine if we had started cleaning them up 20 years ago.”
Is mandated deposit and recycling the best way to deal with cigarette butts?