Skip to main content

No butts about it — cleaning up cigarette litter good for wildlife and people

A mother goose watches Coun. Steve Lehman collect cigarette butts in London, Ont. on April 15, 2024. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London) A mother goose watches Coun. Steve Lehman collect cigarette butts in London, Ont. on April 15, 2024. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London)

Cigarette butts remain the most littered item in the world — including London.

On Monday, a ‘butt blitz’ was held behind city hall in Reg Cooper Square.

Wearing gloves and armed with mechanical picking tools, several city councillors participated in one of several events to collect discarded butts before they’re eaten by wildlife or end up in local waterways.

The filters on cigarettes contain cellulose acetate that can beak down into micro-plastic that contaminate ecosystems and enter the food chain.

A Canada goose nesting behind city hall is expected to directly benefit from the clean-up — even though she hissed at several participants who got too close.

“It’s a big problem in urban parks, [cigarette butts move] into our waterways. It’s really affecting their diet and their health,” said Cole Taylor, an event coordinator with A Greener Future.

Coun. Hadleigh McAlister collects cigarette butts in Reg Cooper Square in London, Ont. on April 15, 2015. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London) London’s Clean and Green program has numerous litter collection events schedule across the city.

Coun. Corrine Rahman said 3,500 participants are expected at a number of cleanups later this week in her northwest London ward.

“It’s a bit of education with the campaign, but it’s also to demonstrate civic pride. We all want to live in a community that is clean, looks nice, and it’s something people can do in a very short amount of time,” she said.

Each year the nationwide Butt Blitz campaign aims to pick up one million cigarette butts for recycling.

The cellulose acetate in the filters is recycled into raw materials for new products like composite decking and outdoor benches.

The ash and tobacco are composted using a specialized process. 

A ‘butt blitz’ was held in London, Ont.'s Reg Cooper Square on April 15, 2024. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London) Top Stories

Some birds may use 'mental time travel,' study finds

Real quick — what did you have for lunch yesterday? Were you with anyone? Where were you? Can you picture the scene? The ability to remember things that happened to you in the past, especially to go back and recall little incidental details, is a hallmark of what psychologists call episodic memory — and new research indicates that it’s an ability humans may share with birds called Eurasian jays.

Stay Connected