Hold On To Your Butts

Get the facts on cigarette butts

1. They are the most littered item in the world. An estimated 5 trillion are discarded each year, and they make up 32% of all litter in outdoor recreation areas.

2. They are the most littered item in Washington State. Butts were the #1 item found on Washington beaches at the 2013 International Coastal Cleanup.

3. They’re not a paper product, and they don’t biodegrade. Filters are made of cellulose acetate- a plastic, synthetic fiber, and there is no evidence they biodegrade.

4. They harm and kill wildlife. Cigarette butt filters are toxic waste and proven harmful. Birds take the filters to line their nests, harming their young. When wet, butts leach out toxins which are proven to be lethal to fish.

5. They cost taxpayers and small business owners. San Francisco determined cigarette litter costs the city $7.5 million USD in cleanup costs and lost revenue. The presence of litter not only decreases property values and attractiveness, we have found that it can burden small business owners whose employees have to sweep mounds of butts from doorways and sidewalks while on the clock.

Hold On To Your Butts (HOTYB) in Seattle

 In early 2014, the Seattle Chapter launched the Hold On To Your Butts Program (HOTYB), which is a national campaign that has been met with significant success in San Diego and Huntingon Beach. Through beach cleanups, the Seattle Surfrider chapter has witnessed that the city has a serious problem of cigarette filters littering public areas, especially beaches and city parks. Though it is illegal to smoke at beaches and parks in Seattle, and within 25 feet of public places like bus stops and doorways (per WA state 70.160.0175 RCW) butts are a significant problem particularly in these areas. 

The Seattle chapter is focused on 1) educating people about cigarette impacts and 2) providing smokers an opportunity to dispose of cigarette butts responsibly. The chapter collaborated with Seattle Parks and Recreation to install two ashcans at Alki Beach Park in August, 2014 and added 6 more in July 2015. The chapter donated 12 cans to West Seattle Junction Association in July 2015 for use in the Junction restaurant and shopping district. Three UW interns have contributed 300 hours of service combined in 2015 and spoken with hundreds of park and event patrons about HOTYB. Chapter volunteers completed a Walk of Shame to draw social media presence to litter at popular bars in Capitol Hill.

Media presence

5.29.15 Seattle Parks and Recreation ‘Seattle Parks and Recreation opts for smoke-free parks’

4.22.15 Real Change ‘People split over the parks smoking ban’

4.22.15 Capitol Hill Seattle Blog ‘Earth Day 2015: 2,000 butts an hour on Capitol Hill’

4.22.15 West Seattle Blog ‘Earth Day scenes’

8.23.14 West Seattle Blog ‘Imagine a Buttless Beach’

8.21.14 West Seattle Blog ‘Hold On To Your Butt’ Surfrider campaign Saturday

Why choose Surfrider cigarette receptacles?

 You can find other cigarette receptacles for cheaper, but you won’t find one like ours. Ours were specially designed by the manufacturer and the Huntington Beach Surfrider Chapter. Check out the benefits of using our cans:

-the openings are small enough to keep other litter out

-the grooves above the openings draw rainwater away

-the locking mechanism keeps out passerbys looking for a butt, doesn’t spill, and are easy to empty

-metal canisters are fire proof and have proven they can handle the weather on California beaches for several years

-they are hard to steal if properly secured to a wall or post

-the attractive vinyl sticker helps create uniformity, making receptacles easy to spot from far away, which increases likelihood of use

Our next steps

We are actively working to find partners (local businesses owners, business associations, government departments, etc.) in high litter areas to install ashcans to reduce litter as well as promote education of cigarette litter impacts on the environment. We are looking for local businesses, especially near parks and beaches, to sponsor ash cans and partner with us to keep these toxic butts out of our waters. Check out this success story from the Vancouver Island Chapter on their highly successful HOTYB program to get inspired!

Opportunities for you to join the effort

Love to talk? We need enthusiastic outreach volunteers to hand out educational flyers and engage the public, contact us!

Social media savvy? Document where you find littered cigarettes and post photos to Twitter: @SeattleHOTYB and Instagram: seattlesurfriderhotyb to help us quantify and track “hot spot” areas.

Own a restaurant or apartment building? Purchase a canister from us for public and patron use, install it and see the litter decrease. Post or set out our educational flyers to spread the stoke to your patrons.

Love recycling? Start a Cigarette Waste Brigade and send cigarette butts to Terra Cycle for recycling and earn donations for your favorite charity.

Artistically talented? Gather up some butts and make something creative that we can use while we do outreach to the public.

Run community events? Plan for smokers- it happens whether you want it to or not, so provide a receptacle and use your event as a platform to ask the public to Hold On To Your Butts.

Citizen scientist? Do a “street sweep” in your neighborhood. You can count butts per block, per hour, and per person, and then show off your garbage to your neighborhood association.

Know a young environmentalist? Until 10/31/15, youth ages 13-25 can enter for a chance to win a $10K scholarship just by picking up cigarette butts. Check out #GetTheFilterOut.

To get involved or request information, please contact: hotyb@seattle.surfrider.org

If you re-publish content on this website, credit Barbara Clabots, 2015. Please also let us know of any inaccuracies.