Surfrider Pacific Rim chapter manager Lilly Woodbury helped collect 17,000 cigarette butts from the 54 butt-collecting canisters installed throughout the West Coast. Butts are sent to TerraCycle to be recycled into new products. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Surfrider Pacific Rim chapter manager Lilly Woodbury helped collect 17,000 cigarette butts from the 54 butt-collecting canisters installed throughout the West Coast. Butts are sent to TerraCycle to be recycled into new products. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Surfrider tackling discarded cigarette butts

“It is exciting to see that people are using the canisters.”

The Surfrider Pacific Rim Foundation’s ‘Hold On To Your Butts’ campaign has galloped out of the gate with smoking success.

The foundation recently completed its first collection of cigarette butts from the 54 butt-collecting canisters it helped install throughout the West Coast and collected a whopping 17,000 of them.

“Surfrider Pacific Rim wants to give a huge thanks to all businesses, the District of Tofino, the District of Ucluelet, and Public Works in both towns—all of whom have been extremely helpful and have really inspired our team with their positivity and stoke,” said Surfrider campaigner Lilly Woodbury. “So far, we’ve had many incredible conversations, lots of laughs, and have learned a lot from everyone involved.”

The campaign is aimed at nixing cigarette butt pollution, a significant problem on the West Coast as evidenced by 1,566 butts being picked up off Tofino’s Multi-Use Path during a Surfrider-led Earth Day cleanup on April 22 and another 710 butts removed from Mackenzie Beach’s sand on July 23.

“Surfrider Pacific Rim adopted this campaign for our local communities as cigarette butts were consistently showing up as one of the highest items collected at cleanups,” Woodbury said.

“Cigarette butt litter is a big issue because butts are the most littered item in the world and most butts are made of cellulose acetate—a type of plastic.”

She added the butts dropped into Surfrider’s canisters are shipped to Terracycle, a global recycling company that transforms discarded butts into useable materials, like plastic lumber, according to Woodbury.

“This eliminates butts ending up in the ocean, as well as landfill, and turns the materials making up the cigarette butt back into something valuable; eliminating the need to extract more raw materials to create plastic products,” she said.

She said the campaign’s huge first haul brought mixed emotions.

“Life is full of ironies, and this feels especially true when doing environmental work. It is exciting to see that people are using the canisters, and exciting that the amount of butts collected have now been prevented from polluting our shared environment,” she said. “When collecting the butts, there were times I felt sadness and frustration, but in any kind of environmental work, you need to process that and then channel it towards creating and sharing the solution. Our team is definitely excited to make this campaign more present, more effective, and more inspiring for all locals and tourists.”

She added the campaign is a vital part of maintaining healthy surroundings and will run in perpetuity, with the next collection date set for October.

“The goal of this campaign is to eliminate cigarette pollution in the Pacific Rim,” she said. “This campaign will need to run in perpetuity to ensure the goal can be achieved and maintained indefinitely. Like anything, the campaign will evolve so that its function will become a norm in the Pacific Rim.”

She said local smokers are encouraged to follow the campaign’s name by holding on to their butts until they find a canister to toss them into and to help spread the word to tourists.

“Talking about the campaign and sharing the campaign with visitors will also help the campaign to be more effective, locals are the key to helping this campaign reach its full potential,” she said.

Surfrider is currently putting together a map outlining where the canisters are and is reaching out to both Tofino and Ucluelet’s district offices to spark stronger collaborations.

“Surfrider hopes to work closer with local municipalities to discuss and understand bylaws for non smoking areas and how we can all work together to continue to offer paradise in this tourist economy driven town,” she said. “We are looking for volunteer “Hold On To Your Butt” committee members who are stoked to help the campaign be successful and sustainable.”

Anyone interested can reach out to volunteercoordinator@pacificrim.surfrider.org.

RELATED ARTICLES

Tofino turns old wetsuits into yoga mats

Plastic bags nixed at Ucluelet Co-op

Surfrider and UES students clean up Flo Bay

SurfriderTofino,ucluelet