Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Keep Your Butts in the Car

The other day I was driving home from work, when I saw the guy in front of me flick a cigarette butt out his truck window. So since The Litterer couldn’t actually hear me from my car, I honked at him. I guess I just wanted him to know someone was watching.

Littering is one of my biggest pet peeves. And many people don’t consider throwing out their cigarette butts as littering. Do people think that once the cigarette butt hits the road, it magically disappears? It’s really just like throwing a bag of garbage out the window. Cigarette filters can take years to degrade. And according to my online research, cigarettes are the most littered item with several trillion butts being littered worldwide every year.

I have picked up litter many times, as part of my Adopt-A-Highway group, and I’ll tell you, it’s not fun. But because people still litter, someone has get out there and clean it up. MoDOT already spends about $5 million a year to clean up litter off the roads, and our AAH groups contribute another $1 million in efforts. Although there are many different items that people throw out of their vehicles, cigarette butts are the things I see the most. Not only are they ugly and smelly, but the toxic residue in cigarette filters is damaging to the environment, and littered butts cause numerous fires every year, some of them fatal.

So what can we do? MoDOT is always accepting new volunteers in our Adopt-A-Highway or Sponsor-A-Highway programs. Just go to or call 888-ASK MODOT to join. Butt, if you happen to see someone flicking their butt out their car window, honk and let folks know you’re watching too.


JW said...

I hate smoker litter as much as you, however, butts should be bio-degradable. It's just paper and cotton, right?

Melissa Black said...

Most cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic. The white fibers you see in a cigarette filter are NOT cotton, but a plastic that can persist in the environment as long as other forms of plastic.

But even if cigarette filters were quick to degrade, we would still have fires caused by lit cigarette butts, and the toxins found in cigarette butts would still be harmful.

Dr. Kushal Banerjee said...

It feels really nice to read the post.

I'm a young medical graduate from Kolkata (Calcutta), India and a social activist.

The city I live in gets horribly littered by people who are least bothered about the responsibility of their actions.

I strongly feel for the issue. Wish there could be a way out here, as well.

Anonymous said...

It is illegal to toss butts out in California, largely due to fire risks -- it is a dry, breezy state. Wonder when/if MO will follow suit? While most people, including myself, would never throw trash out a car window, we wouldn't automatically consider a tiny cigarette butt litter. I agree that cigarettes should be biodegradeable. But I disagree with the poster who said "we would still have fires caused by lit cigarette butts..." -- at least in our state. I've actually never heard of any fire (outside of a camping-related one) caused by someone throwing out a cigarette butt.

Colin Purrington said...

I live in Pennsylvania, so I REPORT litterers, via this site: It might not have an effect, but it makes me feel good.

cydealer said...

I hate to smoke from the cigarettes, I hate litter from cigarettes and I have the same attitude, when somebody is throwing litter from the car. For example in our country (Latvia), If policeman saw that you through litter you will be punished.

Lets save our planet earth clean!!