Bulletin Staff Report

Keep Brownwood Beautiful has received a $1,500 Cigarette Litter Prevention Program grant from Keep America Beautiful, officials have announced.

“Keep Brownwood Beautiful wants to make Brownwood the best and most attractive place to live, and preventing litter of all kinds is crucial,” Cary Perrin, program coordinator of Keep Brownwood Beautiful, said. “KBB’s volunteers are a dedicated group. They give hundreds of hours of their own time to do projects that improve Brownwood and we are looking forward to addressing the cigarette litter problem.”

Perrin described the four phases of the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program. First, assessment of the problem by counting cigarette butts in a two block area, followed by educating the public about the problem and how to prevent litter through educational programs, presentations, and the use of the media. Third is the purchasing and placing of ash receptacles and distributing pocket ashtrays; and the fourth is a post-program assessment to determine its impact.

Only 10 percent of cigarette butts are properly disposed of in ash receptacles, according to national statistics, Perrin said, with most cigarette littering happening at transition points. These are areas where a smoker must extinguish a cigarette before proceeding, such as outside retail stores, hotels, office buildings and at bus shelters and train platforms.

“Messages about cigarette butt litter and ash receptacles at transition points are an important catalyst to changing behavior,” Perrins said. “Many people discount the impact that cigarette butt litter has on our community environment. Cigarette litter has to be cleaned up. This requires additional sidewalk sweeping and park maintenance, and storm drain cleaning. Business owners bear the expense of cigarette litter cleanup around entrances, exits, sidewalks, and parking lots.”

Cigarette butts do not disappear, Perrin added. About 95 percent of cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic, which does not quickly degrade. Filters are harmful to waterways and wildlife, Perrin said.

About 18 percent of litter, traveling primarily through stormwater systems, ends up in local streams, rivers and waterways. Cigarette litter can also pose a hazard to animals and marine life when they mistake filters for food.

“In addition, cigarette litter creates blight,” Perrin said. “It accumulates in gutters and outside doorways and businesses. Increasing amounts of litter in a business district or recreation area create a sense that no one cares, leading to more litter.”

Perrin said anyone interested “in becoming part of the solution for cigarette litter” should call Keep Brownwood Beautiful’s office at 641-0533.