A growing number of littered cigarette butts in Calgary’s Hillhurst neighbourhood has prompted action from some of the city’s youngest activists.
Grade 1 and 2 students at Hillhurst School hit the streets in an educational campaign to raise awareness about the negative impacts of improper cigarette disposal.
The students picked up hundreds of dirty and discarded cigarettes and said they’re fed up with the gross garbage that litters their neighbourhood.
“People throw them onto the ground and then go into storm drains. It’s not good,” Grade 2 student Vienna said.
“We’re trying to stop people from throwing cigarette butts on the ground. They’re really bad for the environment… they can kill fish when they go into storm drain and in five minutes they can pollute more than 20 fish,” Grade 1 student Annabelle said.
A community cleanup sparked the campaign.
“It was all their idea,” teacher Jesse Hamilton said. “We came to present our city councillor with some of the cigarette butts we found and asked her to help us come up with some solutions.”
The students and their teacher took to city hall to share that message with their ward councillor. The students also partnered with a company that specializes in pouches for disposing of cigarette butts responsibly and safely.
Ward 7 Councillor Druh Farrell said the city is already looking at more action to curb the litter, including possibly launching a blitz and partnering with businesses to install smoking bins outside.
“We’re talking about doing a blitz, so high-profile enforcement and high-profile areas where we have zero tolerance,” she said.
The Calgary Fire Department said last year, the improper disposal of smoking material was responsible for 38 fires. Eight of those fires caused more than $100,000 in damage.
“Disposing of cigarette butts in planter pots is one of the leading causes of outdoor residential fires in Calgary, where the source of ignition could be determined,” CFD public information officer Carol Henke said. “Many people don’t realize that… when a planter pot is used as an ashtray, the cigarette butt may smoulder and then cause the pot to burst into flames hours later.”
Officials are urging people to butt it out safely or face a hefty fine.
“If the public is watching,” Calgary bylaw superintendent Damien Cole said. “It’s a $500 fine if you are throwing a cigarette on the floor, and it’s $750 if the cigarette is lit and thrown out the car window.”