On almost any busy street in Philadelphia, discarded cigarette butts line the road and sidewalk.
It’s not just in the city. Studies show that cigarette butts are the most littered item in the United States and around the world.
Last month, the Mayfair Community Development Corporation, with the help of an environmental grant, installed 10 cigarette receptacles in an attempt to cut down on the number of discarded butts along Frankford Avenue.
Butts tossed into the containers will not only be kept off the street. They will be sent to a Trenton recycling plant, where the cigarette filters are turned into park benches, shipping pallets and other items.
The small aluminum receptacles, manufactured by a company called Sidewalk Buttler, were strategically placed, according to Marc Collazzo, executive director of the Mayfair CDC and Business Improvement District.
“We really wanted to revolve around our taverns and SEPTA bus stops because that would be the area people would be smoking and maybe more likely to just flick a cigarette butt,” Collazzo said.
The idea is that smokers will properly dispose of cigarettes if they have a nearby opportunity.
“Smokers generally don’t want to be litterers,” said Mike Roylos, founder of Sidewalk Buttler, which is based in Portland, Maine.
A 2009 study by the environmental nonprofit Keep America Beautiful found that cigarette litter is decreased by 9 percent for each additional butt receptacle in a particular area.
KAB’s study also found that a majority of people did not think flicking cigarette butts was littering, even though the filters are not biodegradable.
“People smoke and that’s OK,” Collazzo said. “We just want to make sure that people are mindful of keeping our community safe and beautiful and healthy for everybody.”
The CDC purchased the receptacles from Roylos’ company with a $1,200 grant from Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, KAB’s local affiliate. Other community groups, including the Fishtown Neighbors Association and the Olde Richmond Civic Association, have also received grants to install the receptacles.
Each container can hold about 650 cigarette butts, according to Roylos, and Collazzo said the CDC will empty them on a weekly basis. The receptacles are locked and are not flammable.
After being collected, the butts will be shipped to TerraCycle, a Trenton-based company that composts the tobacco and recycles the filters and paper. The filters, which are made of synthetic fiber, are cleaned and melted into hard plastic for use in a variety of products.
“Once they’re in our little containers, they never see the light of day again,” Roylos said.
Collazzo called the move to install the receptacles a “no-brainer” and said the CDC will be looking for grant opportunities to buy more for the neighborhood.
“It’s a wonderful neighborhood tool,” he said. “I hope that… other areas in the Northeast and beyond will look to do this because it’s really a great thing.”
Currently, the receptacles are located along Frankford Avenue at Princeton Avenue, Levick Street, Robbins Street and at several spots near Cottman Avenue. ••
Jack Tomczuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org