It’s hard not to notice the cigarettes and other trash that easily accumulate in our gutters and sidewalks in the Humboldt Bay region, and recognize that they will soon be washed into its sensitive coastal ecosystem. While a 2009 Keep America Beautiful study found that 77 percent of individuals do not consider cigarette butts litter, 95 percent of the filters from those cigarettes are made of cellulose acetate, a plastic that does not biodegrade. Wildlife can mistake the butts for food, and birds have been shown to build them into their nests, creating a toxic structure.
The NEC has formally adopted this program as the primary coordinator, co-hosting the program with Humboldt Baykeeper and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).
Adopt-a-Block allows community members to get involved and help clean up our streets, cities, and bay. A group, organization, or individual can choose any stretch of road in Arcata that they want, and pledge to clean it once a month. The cigarette butts collected can be brought into the NEC office, where we will keep track of the waste collected off of Arcata’s streets. With 33 percent of storm drain litter being made up of tobacco products, this work can create a significant difference.
The cigarette butts collected from this program have also contributed to art—RSVP’s Maureen McGarry and the NEC’s Madison Peters created sculptures entirely constructed of used cigarette butts collected by Adopt-a-Block volunteers. The sculptures (pictured below) depict some of the animals put at risk by cigarette butts. After seeing the sculptures at the North Country Fair, HSU student Jensen Green observed, “It was pretty impressive, and disturbing at the same time. It really opens up your eyes to how many cigarettes get thrown on the streets instead of thrown out properly.”
Through this program, the NEC hopes to decrease the ongoing problem of toxic litter in our watersheds. If you are interested in helping keep cigarettes and other trash off our streets and from washing into Humboldt Bay, contact the NEC at 822-6918 to become an Adopt-a-Block volunteer today!