Butt In: Cigarette Litter Prevention Program

This program is no longer active.

Please contact the NEC at nec@yournec.org with any questions!

The Problem

Did you know that cigarette butts are the most littered item in Humboldt County and the world? That’s right: 4.5 trillion butts are littered every year. 34% of all litter in California is from cigarette butts.

Nearly all cigarette filters are composed of 12,000 strands of cellulose acetate (aka plastic) and break down into microplastics that do not biodegrade. They also include toxic chemicals and heavy metals such as arsenic, ammonia, formaldehyde, butane, nicotine, cadmium, lead, and mercury. These toxins leach into the water and soil when littered, which is deadly to wildlife


The Solution

The NEC “Butt In: Cigarette Litter Prevention Program” is working to fight this problem by partnering with local businesses to increase access to cigarette receptacles (aka ashcans). These receptacles have been proven to promote responsible waste disposal by providing smokers with a convenient place to dispose of their cigarettes, which prevents litter. A single cigarette receptacle has been shown to reduce cigarette litter by 9%. Cities that have installed ashcans on a widespread basis have seen overall reductions of 65% or more.

How to Get Involved

Are you a local restaurant or bar who has noticed cigarette litter by your business?

Contact the NEC at nec@yournec.org for possible solutions!

Business Responsibilities:

  • Place the receptacle in an accessible location during business hours that encourages staff and patrons to properly dispose of cigarette butts.
  • Keep the receptacle safe (within reason) by bringing it inside at the end of business hours, or securing the receptacle with a lock and cable.
  • Empty the receptacle when it gets full and properly dispose of waste. Click here for video instructions.
  • Please fill out this short reporting form each time the receptacle is emptied so we can track how many cigarette butts were kept off our streets and out of our waterways.

Business Benefits:

  • Media recognition! You will receive shout-outs on our social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Mailchimp) and in our EcoNews publication, which is read by 4,000+ readers monthly.
  • Keeping your business front clean and appealing to customers.
  • Helping to protect our neighborhoods and ecosystems from toxic cigarette litter.

Other Ways to Help

  1. Be part of the solution to plastic pollution: sign our Reduce Single-Use Pledge! The Reduce Single Use Pledge asks restaurants to only provide single-use foodware upon customer request to reduce unnecessary plastic waste to our landfills, neighborhoods, rivers, and oceans.
  2. Are you looking for other ways to help with cigarette litter? Join Trash Trackers, the NEC’s volunteer cleanup program. Help keep our community clean and track what kind of trash is being found where. This data collection helps us find local waste patterns so we can advocate for waste reduction solutions in our community. Wow Factor: Our team of Coastal Programs volunteers have picked up over 70,000 cigarette butts around Humboldt County since 2016.

Participating Businesses

Thank you to our wonderful local businesses who have applied to the Butt In program and are working to help keep cigarette litter out of our community! Please patron these businesses to show your support.