More than 200 volunteers assembled at Kits Beach Saturday to lend a hand as part of the annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup.
According to Jean Fong, spokesperson for the event, over 150 kilograms of trash was removed from the beach stretching from Kits Pool to Vanier Park.
Among the garbage picked up were over 11,000 cigarette butts.
Cigarette butts and associated paraphernalia (plastic tips, matches, cigarette packaging and lighters) consistently rank as the number one item collected during shoreline cleanups.
While the negative health impacts of cigarettes are widely studied and publicized, the negative environmental impacts associated with cigarette waste are less so.
Cigarette- related trash is a major problem world-wide. An estimated 4.3 trillion butts are discarded annually, many of which end up in streets oceans instead of garbage cans.
A major â€˜butt’ component are cellulose acetate filters, a thermoplastic intended to reduce the amount of toxins (cyanide, mercury, arsenic) inhaled by smokers.
That means every discarded butt (which end up in storm drains that empty into streams, rivers, and eventually oceans) is concentrated with these toxinsâ€”toxins that have been shown to leach into water and cause a higher fish mortality rate, prompting calls to label cigarette waste as toxic waste.
Other cigarette waste-related environmental issues include wildlife ingestion and subsequent death along the food chain.
As of Sept. 1, 2010, the Vancouver Park Board announced a new bylaw banning smoking, year-round, at all of the city’s parks and beaches. Violators can expect a minimum fine of $250.
It will be interesting to see how next year’s shoreline cleanup statistics will compare to this year’s now that the smoking ban is in effect.
Last modified: September 20, 2010