By Alastair Bland

The number one item still found in California’s beach and coast clean ups is cigarette butts, according to Surfrider’s San Francisco chapter director Shelley Ericksen. Surfrider’s “Hold-on-to-your-Butt” campaign, launched in 1992, and local law enforcement have failed to make a dent in the habit of smokers tossing their butts anywhere they please, and this isn’t good for the environment. A 2011 study in the journal Tobacco Control showed that a single butt in a liter of water can lethally poison fish; on a more local level, San Francisco Estuary Institute studies have found that estuary waters contain anywhere from two to ten times as many microplastic particles (cigarette filters are made of plastic) as samples from Chesapeake Bay on the Atlantic Coast. Miriam Gordon of an organization called Upstream says the only answer is to eliminate the filter altogether. In the meantime, butt litter remains one of the last socially accepted forms of illegal polluting.

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Cigarette Butts Still the Number One Item in Coastal Trash

By Alastair Bland

The number one item still found in California’s beach and coast clean ups is cigarette butts, according to Surfrider’s San Francisco chapter director Shelley Ericksen. Surfrider’s “Hold-on-to-your-Butt” campaign, launched in 1992, and local law enforcement have failed to make a dent in the habit of smokers tossing their butts anywhere they please, and this isn’t good for the environment. A 2011 study in the journal Tobacco Control showed that a single butt in a liter of water can lethally poison fish; on a more local level, San Francisco Estuary Institute studies have found that estuary waters contain anywhere from two to ten times as many microplastic particles (cigarette filters are made of plastic) as samples from Chesapeake Bay on the Atlantic Coast. Miriam Gordon of an organization called Upstream says the only answer is to eliminate the filter altogether. In the meantime, butt litter remains one of the last socially accepted forms of illegal polluting.

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About the author

A native to San Francisco, Alastair Bland is a freelance journalist who writes about water policy in California, rivers and salmon, marine conservation and climate change. His work has appeared at NPR.org, Smithsonian.com, Yale Environment 360 and News Deeply, among many other outlets. When he isn't writing, Alastair is likely riding his bicycle uphill as fast as he can.

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