Jay McCubbrey of Tobacco Free Humboldt reports that on March 22, 2014, youth from both the Arcata and Eureka High School Friday Night Live clubs conducted a tobacco litter cleanup on and around the Arcata Plaza for Kick Butts Day. Kick Butts Day is a national event to increase public awareness about toxic tobacco litter and the negative impacts of the tobacco industry.
A total of 1,950 butts were collected from the Plaza and surrounding streets and sidewalks, including 460 along 9th Street. This shows a dramatic decrease in the number of cigarette butts being introduced into our environment since the City of Arcata adopted policies to create a smoke-free downtown. Last July, the day the smoke-free downtown policy took effect, volunteers recovered 4,200 cigarette butts along the same one-block section of 9th Street.
Trash from streets ends up in storm drains, which carry it to streams, into Humboldt Bay, and eventually, the ocean. Not only are cigarette butts made of long-lived plastic, the tobacco remains are toxic. One cigarette butt soaked in a liter of water killed half of the fish exposed in a study in a laboratory setting. Another study found that cigarette butts can be a point source for heavy metal contamination in water for at least a month.
Since 1989, volunteers have removed nearly 6.5 million cigarette butts from California beaches and waterways as part of the annual International Coastal Cleanup Day in September. This represents 39.5% of trash items collected—by far the most prevalent item found.
Tobacco Free Humboldt works to reduce tobacco litter and exposure to secondhand smoke. Tobacco Free Humboldt is a project of the Humboldt County Public Health Branch—Department of Health and Human Services.
Thank you to the volunteers! And thank you to the Arcata City Council for protecting our health and our environment!