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A lot of to do about cigarette butts and litter — who knew?

Over 500 million pieces of litter were found along state roadways in 2019, according to Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful, a non-profit organization that since 1990 has been devoted to keeping communities in all of the state’s 67 counties clean and beautiful.

Of the total estimated litter, 186.2 million or 37.1 percent were cigarette butts.

Enter the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program, created by the larger Keep America Beautiful organization in 2002. It is the nation’s largest program aimed at eliminating cigarette butt and cigar tip litter.

The program provided the state organization with a $20,000 grant this past year. Collaborating with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the group was able to reduce the number of cigarette butts left behind in 10 state parks in 2020 by 42 percent.

To date, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful has implemented the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program in 35 of the 121 state parks with an overall, combined reduction rate of 67 percent.

They did this by installing ash receptacles at points of entry and providing portable ashtrays to smokers using the parks.

This program is not just reducing litter. The group is partnering with Terracycle to recycle cigarette refuse by shipping cigarette collections to the company.

There, the materials that make up a cigarette are separated. The filters are melted into hard plastic to make new recycled industrial products, such as plastic pallets, and residual tobacco and paper are separated and composted.

Cigarette butts may contaminate soil and ground water with chemicals and heavy metals; fatally impact birds, animals and marine life who often mistake them for food; and the filters, made of cellulose acetate, never fully disappear from the environment, according to Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.

It seems like a very small piece of debris to get so much attention. Left unchecked, it adds up.

That said, we tip our hats today to this program.

And smokers, we ask that you dispose of your butts in a proper receptacle and not on the ground.

As the group’s name says, do your part to Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful!

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