When tabling for the AVA event this weekend, we set up adjacent to the main volleyball court and on the opposite side from the announcers stand. Phillip van Rooyen, coordinator of the AVA, gave many shout outs throughout the tournament to the Surfrider Foundation and was responsible for helping get younger volleyball players involved in helping do some beach cleanups. Any volunteers could pick up ten cigarette butts and bring them back to the Surfrider table for a raffle ticket to enter to win many prizes including a pair of blue tooth headphones and the grand prize, a beach cruiser bike. Throughout the day many people asked about the number of cigarette butts that we had collected in the 5-gallon water jug. When we told them that all the butts in that jug were from Alki Beach many were shocked.
Locals in particular seemed adamant that there needed to be more done to keep our beaches and waterways clean. A common misconception was that Surfrider was there to protest smoking, but this was not the case. Although Surfrider does not condone smoking as a great activity the role of HOTYB is to educate people on proper disposal of cigarette litter so that the non-biodegradable butts that are made of plastic (cellulose acetate) can be collected and recycled rather than dumped into our waterways. For people that stuck around long enough to converse with the Surfrider team, things really came full circle when they made the connection that polluted waterways affects everything around us, even our food. As toxins from cigarette butts accumulate in the marine ecosystem, fish you find at Pikes Place on a Saturday not be as fresh as you might have anticipated.
Overall cigarette butts are still the number one item littered world wide, and are one of the major issues in the immediate health of the waters around our area (Ocean Conservancy). As efforts continue to promote clean and healthy beaches, the Surfrider team and Interns will be working to get more information on perceptions and influence through signage about the issues around litter on beaches here in the northwest. If you are looking to come experience first hand action, try and make it out on August 1st for another Surfrider outreach day at Alki Beach. In the meantime, think twice when you see cigarette butts on the ground, where do the chemicals in those filters really end up?