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Surfrider tackles cigarette pollution in Tofino and Ucluelet

“The campaign aims to raise awareness about the environmental impact of cigarette butt litter on our oceans, waves and beaches."
John Meszaros of Tofino's public works crew shares his stoke on a new cigarette canister at Tonquin Park. Thanks to Surfrider Pacific Rim

Careless smokers are covering the West Coast’s serene landscape with cigarette butts and local ocean lovers have launched a campaign to convince them to cut it out.

Surfrider Pacific Rim is installing canisters throughout Tofino and Ucluelet as part of a ‘Hold onto Your Butts’ campaign designed to keep beaches and streets clean while raising awareness of cigarette pollution.

“The Hold onto Your Butt campaign is a fun and proactive approach to stopping the flow of cigarette litter from sidewalks to storm drains and eventually out to the ocean,” Surfrider Pacific Rim chair Michelle Hall told the Westerly News.

“The campaign aims to raise awareness about the environmental impact of cigarette butt litter on our oceans, waves and beaches...We are asking you to hold onto your butt until you see a canister to put it in; it’s easy.”

Roughly 12 canisters have been installed so far on district-owned land in Tofino and Ucluelet as well as outside participating businesses like Wolf in the Fog, Wickaninnish Inn and Howlers Restaurant.

“We will be working very closely with public works and businesses to monitor the cigarettes collected in the canisters, and celebrate together the prevention of butts from reaching the ocean, and instead being recycled,” Hall said. “Surfrider Pacific Rim will champion the use of these canisters and launch the HOTYB campaign to ensure that the community gets involved, and becomes part of the solution not the pollution. Continuing our work in the schools, to provide education to our youth is vital.”

She explained canisters are emptied regularly and the butts shipped to the mainland to be recycled.

“With the help of volunteers, public works and this amazing community of people, we will collect those butts, and get them recycled into other plastic products through a company called TerraCycle,” she said.

“TerraCycle have formed an amazing relationship with the Surfrider Foundation in the US, and so we reached out to their Canadian branch and they were stoked to start working with us too. They also offer recycle services for items that may be hard to recycle here on the Pacific Rim, and that’s something we will be looking at for the future too.”

Local Surfrider volunteers have picked roughly 3,073 cigarette butts off local beaches in the past year, according to the foundation’s cleanup records, making butts the third most frequently found debris behind plastics and styrofoam.

“This problem isn’t exclusive to the Pacific Rim here on the West Coast,” Hall said.

“The California Coastal Commission reports that 36% of debris removed as part of its annual California Coastal Cleanup Day are cigarette butts and other smoking related items.”

She said roughly 4.95 trillion cigarette butts are tossed into the environment each year and these butts can take up to 25 years to decompose and leach toxins that threaten marine life.

“We would like to make the general public more aware of their actions when it comes to throwing butts out the window of a car or on a beach, but also provide the solutions to enable people to dispose of butts in the canisters,” she said.

Hall has been thrilled so see local excitement surround the young campaign.

“Locals are already excited for this initiative, not just because this means cleaner streets, but locals are now able to take part in the solution to end butt pollution,” she said.

“Having the canisters and the education, means that we can help others dispose of their butts properly, and let them know that they are awesome because their butts get recycled into other products. Thats a win-win.”

Anyone interested in installing a canister at their business is encouraged to contact Surfrider at and anyone interested in volunteering for the campaign can reach out to

“Surfrider is looking for volunteers to help champion this campaign, whether that’s becoming a volunteer for the HOTYB team, helping to collect butts, or being part of informing the community to dispose of butts in the canisters,” Hall said.

“Got some fun slogans about holding onto your butt? Have a fun idea for a spoof campaign video on keeping butts of the street? Let us know.”


Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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