Do you ever think about that little cigarette butt in your hand? What happens if you throw it out the window going down the road? Does it matter? Yes, that is why cigarettes are the number one littered item in the world. In fact, 176,000,000 pounds of cigarette butts are littered every year in the United States alone.
Trying to keep this litter under control takes a considerable amount of resources. The storm drains that receive all the runoff from storms also collect cigarette butts and transport them to our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. Cigarette butts are a visible pollutant, but there are also non-visible effects. Cigarette butts have chemical compounds in them that leach into the water during each rainstorm or irrigation cycle. Butts on the road look terrible, and are also responsible for many fires, harm animals (birds often use them for nesting), and cause pollution in various forms.
The California and Nevada departments of transportation (Caltrans/NDOT) have both implemented cigarette litter prevention plans to make it easier for you to do the right thing and help clean up the waters of America. Butts Only Box® cigarette receptacles are placed at highway rest areas so you can empty your ashtray safely. The cigarette waste will be taken to a refuse-to-energy plant where each pound of cigarette waste will produce over 500 watts of energy. To help illustrate this amount of energy, one pound of cigarette waste can produce enough energy to cook 25 burritos in a microwave oven.
The BTU potential of cigarette waste is so high that it helps fuel the energy plant and keep it at temperature. After the butts are burned and the energy is created, even the ash leftover from the process is used in road base and concrete production. So, the Butts to Watts® program reduces pollution, helps birds and animals, diverts waste from landfills, protects our water, creates a usable product, and produces energy – all from that little butt in your hand. Who would have thought you had that much power at your fingertips! More than 170 million pounds of cigarette butts are littered every year in the United States, which could power 8,900 average homes for an entire year.
As you drive west on the I-80 into Nevada, you are traveling the same route as the settlers did. The Truckee River, by Reno, was the first good drinking water encountered by many settlers after a 400-mile desert crossing with nothing but alkaline water to drink. This is a historical watershed, and protecting it for future generations through storm water pollution prevention is our obligation – after all, it was preserved for us by someone, so why not pay it forward to the next someone.
Look around in your hometown. Which body of water are your storm drains leading to? Does it become a drinking water reservoir? Let’s use the Las Vegas valley as an example. A watershed is an area of land that drains to a specific place. The Las Vegas valley drains to Lake Mead and becomes drinking water for millions of people in three states. Protecting this watershed is very important to humans, but what about the millions of animals and birds that depend on the Colorado River for survival, as well? Once a cigarette butt gets into cattails or reeds, it is almost impossible to recover, so prevention is the key. The goal is to get Butts Only Box® receptacles placed at every rest area and truck stop in America to once-and-for-all correct this problem of cigarette waste.
Cigarette Pollution Solutions, the company that makes the Butts Only Box® receptacles, was founded in 2007 by Ken Beckstead, who was doing water pollution prevention services on construction sites at the time. Once research was done on storm water pollution, it became clear that cigarette litter had to be addressed on a large scale in a professional manner. Today, there are 57 receptacles at rest areas in California and 5 in Nevada, which have collected tens of millions of cigarette butts that would have otherwise added to our landfills and/or polluted our cities and drinking water sources.
As you are traveling towards (or in) Nevada or California, save up your butts and put them in a Butts Only Box® so Ken can put them to work. To learn more about this program or to request a box, visit www.buttsonlybox.com or call Ken directly at (760) 845-5285.