August 21, 2017 5:00 am
Updated: August 21, 2017 7:45 am

Cigarette litter prompts #ButtFreeYYC campaign in Calgary

Cigarette butts aren't actually biodegradable, City of Calgary staff point out. The city is launching a new campaign to help get rid of the unsightly litter.

John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

No matter what part of Calgary you’re in, it’s hard not see more than a few cigarette butts littering the ground.

Data from Statistics Canada shows nearly 1 in 5 Albertans smoke, and in a city of just over 1.2 million people, that can add up to a lot of cigarette butts.

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“We’ve been getting feedback from businesses and the business improvement areas we work with — particularly in the downtown core — seeing unsightly cigarette butts, some of them just right beside the cigarette butt receptacles,” said Cheryl Herperger, lead on public awareness and prevention with City of Calgary community standards.

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

The feedback has led to the creation of a new public awareness campaign, dubbed #ButtFreeYYC, in which the city hopes to motivate smokers to not only put their butts where they belong, but also educate them on the bigger issues associated with improper disposal of smoking materials.

“Cigarette butts are not decomposable,” Herperger said. “Many smokers think that they will just decompose into the soil and it’s taken care of. They’re not biodegradable, and not compostable.”

Beyond being unsightly, Herperger said there’s a bigger environmental impact to consider as well.

“Birds, fish [and] wildlife mistake the cigarette butts for food,” she said. “The butts stubbed in planters, mulch and flower pots can [also] ignite a fire with the organic components of soil.”

READ MORE: City of Edmonton rewarding responsible smokers

While education is a key component of what city hall is aiming for, taking care of the existing litter problem may also be in the cards as the campaign grows.

“We’re also looking to have a sweep day where all of us take notice of cigarette buts in a certain area, and help pitch in and put those into the garbage.”

Herperger said the community standards department is also investigating the possibility of sourcing portable ashtrays which people can use so they don’t toss their butts on the ground.

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