By Michael Durand
On Friday, June 30, a six-month effort was launched to reduce the
number of toxic cigarette butt waste in San Francisco’s
Sunset and Richmond districts when SF supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer
and Katy Tang organized a kick-off event and beach clean-up at Ocean Beach.
Also participating were community members, Surfrider Foundation, SF Department
of Public Works and SF Department of the Environment.
Cigarette butts that are discarded onto neighborhood streets and sidewalks are the
number-one litter problem in the City because cigarette filters are made of plastic and
are toxic. Because the butts find their way into the city’s sewer system or go directly
into the ocean, it is impetus for the Surfrider Foundation to take action to help keep
city beaches cleaner. The non-profit organization is installing
collection cans throughout the western neighborhoods.
“Flicking cigarettes is a common habit and many people think the filters are
biodegradable,” said Shelley Ericksen, a volunteer with the
Surfrider Foundation. “In fact, cigarette filters are made of tiny strands of cellulose
acetate – the same plastic as your sunglasses. They are loaded with toxic chemicals,
including arsenic, lead and cadmium, which can poison children and animals that
mistake them for food. When those chemicals leach into our oceans and groundwater,
they threaten the safety of the fish we eat and the water we drink.”
Mohammed Nuru, the Public Works director, agrees. “We are hopeful this butt
can pilot effort will yield positive results and get smokers to stop using our sidewalks
and streets as ashtrays,” said Nuru.