Get Those Butts Off the Beach (A Yeoman Effort in New Jersey Before the Storm)
Earlier this fall—well before Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the New Jersey coast and changed the conversation about climate disruption and its consequences—the Sierra Club's New Jersey Chapter and recycling pioneer TerraCycle teamed up to do a beach cleanup in the coastal community of Belmar.
[Editor's note: Sandy destroyed half of Belmar's newly completed 1.2-mile boardwalk, and left neighborhoods near the beach under three to four feet of water. Find out how you can aid relief and recovery efforts in Belmar at the bottom of this post.]
The Belmar beach cleanup was organized in conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup Day, which the conservancy has mobilized for the last 25 years. More than 52 million cigarette butts have been collected from beaches on cleanup days over that span.
"Eighty-five volunteers collected over 4,300 cigarette butts, 700 bottle caps, 600 wrappers, and 330 straws off the beach," says New Jersey Chapter organizer Nicole Dallara. "The discarded cigarette butts were then sent to TerraCycle, which 'upcycles' them into new products like shipping products, plastic lumber, railroad ties, and other items after the waste gets converted into plastic pellets."
"You don't have to walk or drive very far to see that smokers often discard cigarette waste in ways that litter the environment," Cressida Lozano, head of sales and marketing for Santa Fe, told The Trentonian newspaper. "We're proud to be the exclusive sponsor of an innovative program to reduce and recycle cigarette butt litter, regardless of which manufacturer made the cigarettes."
Many of TerraCycle's brigade programs, including the Cigarette Brigade, offer free shipping, and in many cases the company will make a donation to participants for each piece of garbage they collect.
"You can collect all parts of extinguished cigarettes and ship them to TerraCycle to be recycled, and they'll pay for the shipping, so it's completely free," says Dallara, pictured at left. "All you have to do is sign up and join one of their brigade programs. And now that the New Jersey Chapter has participated in International Coastal Cleanup Day, TerraCycle wants to work with other Sierra Club chapters as well."