Program targets removal of cigarette butts from the environment

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 Keep Brunswick County Beautiful (KBCB) has targeted the town of Oak Island with its Cigarette Litter Prevention Program (CLPP).

In this case, the CLPP program is designed to educate beachgoers of the environmental impacts of tossing their butts to the ground versus disposing of cigarette litter properly. KBCB provided freestanding receptacles and ashtrays for proper cigarette butt disposal.

Thousands of pieces of cellulose acetate (cigarette filters) can be found on any of the 46 miles of beaches in this county. This cellulose fiber is made to look like cotton, but takes many years to decompose. 

While on a beach, these butts become potential hazards for small children, young birds and immature sea turtles; and may even cause a fire if blown into the dry plants lining the beachfront. Cigarette butts diminish the appeal of a day at the beach.

Volunteers from KBCB, assisted by two beachgoers from Raleigh and Champaign, Ill., picked up 2,298 pieces of cigarette litter on and around the Oak Island Pier last Monday afternoon. After the scan of litter, cigarette butt receptacles were placed at key locations at the Oak Island Pier. Portable beach ashtrays were provided to Kathy Thomes, who works at the pier’s retail store. Workers at the store will place these ashtrays directly into the hands of adult smokers through a one-on-one distribution for as long as they last. That may take only a couple of weeks since the donated carton contains only 200 ashtrays.

A follow-up scan by KBCB volunteers will take place at the same location four weeks from the first scan. A comparison of the count of cigarette butts found here would measure this program’s effectiveness. 

Signs will be placed during the follow-up scan. The new signs remind smokers to dispose of their cigarette litter properly. Chad Hick, assistant town manager, is excited to see something positive with changing behaviors regarding smokers who “spoil the beach.”

Since 2007, KBCB has received grants to initiate and expand the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program in Brunswick County. Previously, KBCB, an affiliate of the national Keep America Beautiful organization, has worked with community leaders at Boiling Spring Lakes, Bolivia, Holden Beach, Southport and St. James. 

The group has installed more than 100 freestanding and wall-mounted butt receptacles in many public areas in these communities. Also provided are limited supplies of portable pocket ashtrays that are great for outdoor activities such as a day at the beach, playing golf, fishing, etc.

KBCB, a nonprofit entity, works with community leaders to help boost the CLPP and other programs with public service announcements, media coverage and educational signs. 

For more information about Keep Brunswick County Beautiful, the national Cigarette Litter Prevention Program or solid waste management in Brunswick County, call Kim Thompson, recycle coordinator, Brunswick County Solid Waste and Recycling Department, at 253-2524 or e-mail kthompson@brunsco.net; or Steve Cherry, KBCB board chairman, at 253-9022 or e-mail scherry3@ec.rr.com. 

Chad Hicks, Oak Island assistant town manager, can be reached at 201-8002.