The City of Salem Is Starting a Cigarette Butt Recycling Program

It will be the first in New England.

The City of Salem may be well-known for its Halloween displays and events, but there’s another program taking place in October that puts the North Shore municipal in a league of its own. The historical town is launching a new witch hunt—on cigarette butts.

In an effort to keep streets clean, Salem will be the first city in New England to begin a cigarette butt recycling program. Later this month, dozens of waste-collecting receptacles will be placed on the streets, especially downtown, with the easy-to-understand labeling, ‘Recycle Your Butts Here.'”

“I am excited that Salem will be one of the first communities in the nation, and the first in New England, to partner with TerraCycle in this innovative endeavor,” says Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll in a statement. “Cigarette waste is one of the most common forms of litter on our streets and sidewalks. Having these receptacles available should provide us one more tool in our efforts to keep our City clean, while maintaining our commitment to being green and eliminating our overall trash output.”

Cigarette butts are not only disgusting, but the small filter and paper pieces are also a large source of litter. According to Keep America Beautiful, approximately 38 percent of all roadside litter in the U.S. is “tobacco-related waste.” In addition, an estimated 195 million pounds of cigarette butts are “improperly discarded” in the U.S. every year. It’s this kind of litter that led the Cape Cod National Seashore to ban smoking on its beaches this past summer. According to a report from the City of Salem, cigarette filters do not break down in the environment and are not biodegradable. “[The butts] are made from cellulose acetate, which is produced from wood fiber, and take many years to break down in the environment,” the report says.

According to the report:

Cigarette butts collected through the Cigarette Waste Brigade and now in Salem are recycled into a variety of industrial products, such as plastic pallets. Any remaining tobacco is repurposed via tobacco-specific composting methods. The entire program is free to consumers. The recent expansion and ability for TerraCycle to offer low cost recycling programs to cities and municipalities stems from a partnership with Progressive Waste Solutions, who invested in the company.

As an incentive to recycle, for every pound of cigarette waste collected, $2 will be donated, with $1 going to Salem Main Streets and $1 going to Keep America Beautiful. The Salem program is an extension of TerraCycle’s Cigarette Waste Brigadeä – a nationwide, mail-in recycling program for responsible, adult smokers that is sponsored by Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company.

“Cigarette waste is the most littered item across the globe,” says Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle, a New Jersey-based company that provides free waste collection programs for hard to recycle materials. “Salem is taking a lead by becoming the first city in New England to implement an integrated cigarette waste disposal and recycling program, and we are impressed with the initiative officials have shown and grateful for their commitment to help us eliminate this type of waste.”