Just over a year ago, my best friend and I decided to adopt several miles of road under the Island County Adopt-a-Road Program. We were concerned about the trash along the side of the roads and wanted to do something for our community that was outside and had an immediate impact.
The volunteer hours are gratifying to us.
But, we are seeing firsthand the world’s most littered item — cigarette butts. On Aug. 4, we picked up the stretch of Crescent Harbor Road from Hunt to Taylor, a stretch we do every few weeks. We decided to count the number of butts we picked up and were in shock that this stretch of less than a mile had over 600 butts. The next day we walked along the path at Flintstone Park and, in a 20-foot stretch, counted 48 butts.
In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Saabira Chaudhuri, “The World’s Most-Littered Item Draws Fire,” she gives some stats for one day of collection on beaches and waterways: cigarette butts, 5.72 million; food wrappers, 3.73 million; straws and stirrers, 3.67 million; and plastic bottles, 1.75 million.
Now, all these trash items are a problem, but our experience here in Island County is ringing true with these stats. Cigarette butts are made of plastic and are toxic to fish and wildlife. Butts take over 30 years to decompose, and they leach those toxins into the water and ground. For some reason, many smokers don’t see the butts as trash. They simply don’t consider throwing that butt on the ground as littering. The reality is, butts are litter.
Now, you may think this deluge of butts is from tourists. But, no, this stretch is toward residential housing. The highest concentration is found near Crescent Harbor Elementary School. Once school starts we expect to see even more where parents wait to pick up their kids.
Please, if you are a smoker, don’t litter with your butts. Dispose of these trash items in the garbage. The environment and Adopt-a-Road volunteers, will appreciate your help.