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City of North Vancouver mayor wants 5-cent deposit on cigarette butts

WATCH: The streets of Metro Vancouver are littered with thousands of discarded cigarette butts. Now one city is hoping to encourage smokers to think twice about tossing their butts with a new proposal. Catherine Urquhart reports.

City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto is on a mission to rid B.C. of discarded cigarette butts.

His plan? A provincewide five-cent deposit on butts similar to the system used to recycle pop cans.

Smokers would pay an extra nickel per cigarette, which would be returned when they bring the butts back to a depot.

“In the City of North Vancouver, 87,000 cigarettes are smoked a day,” Mussatto said. “In British Columbia, over 6 million cigarettes are smoked a day and people don’t smoke in homes anymore. They don’t use ashtrays. They smoke outdoors and they use the ground as their ashtray.”

Council members backed the idea unanimously and Mussatto will lobby the Union of BC Municipalities for support at a meeting in September.

“I think it would encourage people who don’t even smoke to actually pick them up,” Mussatto said. “They could go and collect them and take them back for the deposit as well. So you’d find very quickly that there wouldn’t be any cigarette butts on the streets.”

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River conservationist Mark Angelo said cigarettes are more than an eyesore.

“Within an hour of hitting the water they can leak toxins —  things like arsenic, cadmium and lead,” he said. “They’re a major source of unsightly litter. They get consumed by birds. It is a very problematic and significant issue.”

Ultimately the cash-for-butts program would need to be legislated by the province.

Mussatto said cigarette butts make up 46 per cent of the litter on the streets and it’s time to make North Vancouver — and all of B.C. — both greener and cleaner.

– With files from Catherine Urquhart