Lake Tahoe environmental groups installing cigarette butt cannisters to cutdown on litter | SierraSun.com

Lake Tahoe environmental groups installing cigarette butt cannisters to cutdown on litter

Sierra Sun staff
The League to Save Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Waters Supplies Association are distributing 250 cigarette butt collection canisters around the lake.
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A new program hopes to reduce the amount of toxic cigarette butts in the Tahoe Basin.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Waters Supplies Association are in the process of distributing an initial run of 250 cigarette butt collection canisters at key locations around Lake Tahoe as part of the “Tahoe Cigarette Disposal Program,” according to a press release.

The program came about after the League noticed that cigarette butts were the top collected items at cleanup events. At the League’s most recent cleanups this month over 4,500 cigarette butts were collected. Last year more than 27,600 cigarette butts were collected in and around Lake Tahoe by the League.

“We are so excited to be partnering with the TWSA to build the awareness that cigarette butts are a toxic form of litter that doesn’t biodegrade,” Marilee Movius, community engagement manager for the League, said in a press release. “With the help of these new cigarette butt canisters, it will be easy for everyone to properly dispose of cigarette butts and Keep Tahoe Blue. We are looking forward to collecting data to analyze again next year and hoping to see a dramatic drop in the amount of cigarette litter.”

An estimated 98% of cigarette filters are made of plastic fibers, which means they do not biodegrade and can become a form of microplastic, according to the League.

“Though they are small, they are numerous. Cigarette litter pollutes the Tahoe watershed which is our regional source of drinking water. They are also a huge concern for wildfire risk. This program offers an opportunity to partner with multiple agencies toward the common goal of providing more public access to a proper disposal method for cigarette butts, and reducing the number we see thrown improperly in our communities,” Madonna Dunbar, executive director of TWSA, said in the release.

The bins were obtained through a Keep America Beautiful grant program. The League and TWSA plan to install canisters throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin through 2019. The League will be coordinating on the South Shore and TWSA will be coordinating on the North Shore.

The Tahoe Cigarette Disposal program is branded to fit in with the Take Care Tahoe campaign, and each canister is designed to be highly visible and include education on how cigarette butts have harmful impacts to the environment and wildlife

“Using data from the League’s past cleanups, canisters will first be installed in partnership with land managers at hot spots or areas known to generate significant cigarette butt litter. “If you see an area that could benefit from a canister, let us know,” Jesse Patterson, chief strategy officer for the League, said in the release. “We want to deploy as many canisters as possible, as quickly as possible to the areas most in need, and we need the public to help us make this program a success.”

Once a location is identified, the League and TWSA work to find an “owner” of the canister to monitor it, record the amount of cigarettes collected and to empty it properly.

Anyone aware of a potential hot spot where a canister could be installed should visit keeptahoeblue.org/cigarettedisposal.