SF State introduces cigarette litter recycling

SF State is the first place in San Francisco to collect and recycle cigarette butts at one dollar per pound.

Beginning March 16, Sustainable SF State has partnered with the local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation to provide containers to collect cigarette butts. Filters will be collected by students, then sent to be recycled at TerraCycle. 

Dylan Morse smokes a cigarette outside of the library surrounded by cigarette butts, Tuesday, March 15. (Connor Hunt / Xpress)

Dylan Morse smokes a cigarette outside of the library surrounded by cigarette butts, Tuesday, March 15. (Connor Hunt / Xpress)

TerraCycle focuses on recycling many everyday items that are not easily recyclable, such as water filters and plastic pens. The Surfrider Foundation is a volunteer community that aims to protect oceans and beaches by conducting beach cleanups and campaigning for better recycling of plastics.

“Our main goal is to prevent cigarette waste in our ocean,” said Shelly Ericksen, the program chair of the SF State chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. “A lot of people do not know that (cigarette) filters are not biodegradable.”

Cigarette butts are the most littered item in San Francisco Bay Area, according to a press release from the SF chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

“If you save and collect filters on your own, then we will send you a shipping label at no cost and give you $1 dollar for every pound you send in,” Ericksen said. “There is an option to become a ‘butt ambassador’ to work with others and start your own recycling campaign.”

Surfrider Foundation also has airtight “pocket ashtrays” to help you collect and recycle on your own.

According to their website, the Surfrider Foundation has saved nearly 250,000 cigarette butts from being littered in Huntington Beach and San Diego in the last three years, where they focused on receptacles on the beach front.

“We are trying to repeat the success we had in Southern California,” Ericksen said. “We would love to put them wherever we get permission.”

Locations consist of three designated smoking areas – Holloway Ave at Tapia Drive, the designated smoking area by Mary Ward Hall on Font Boulevard, and at the designated smoking area on State Drive next to the Towers at Centennial Square.

Jason Domingo places his cigarette butt in the new cigarette recycling bin located on Tapia Dr, Thursday, March 17, 2016. (Connor Hunt / Xpress)

Jason Domingo places his cigarette butt in the new cigarette recycling bin located on Tapia Dr, Thursday, March 17, 2016. (Connor Hunt / Xpress)

Recyclable cigarette items such as the filters, rolling papers, the plastic packaging as well as the foil inner packaging are recyclable at these receptacles. The butts will be collected by students.

“Nobody really thinks where they put their cigarette butts, most people just throw them on the ground,” said George Caden Reed, an urban studies and planning major. “If [it’s] successful then it would be good to see it in other places.”

“This is just the pilot,” said Steven Childs, a natural resource management major and a major contributor to the project. “My next project would be to get this at USF and CCSF, and pushing this all round San Francisco.”

Childs is already pushing for two more containers along Holloway Ave and Tapia Drive.

Containers were paid for by Sustainable SF State, and were about $50 each. Sustainable SF State used savings from energy efficiency projects to fund the project.

“What (we) are hoping is that the rest of the city of San Francisco sees these and will start to put them in,” said Nick Kordesch, sustainability specialist at SF State. “We should have them at Ocean Beach and we should have them in Dolores Park, everywhere else where you see a lot of cigarette litter.”

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