339,716. That’s how many cigarette butts were collected in the Great Lakes Basin (including our very own Lake Erie) in volunteer cleanups in  2019.

Add 44,822 cigar tips plus 1,868 other tobacco product related waste (think discarded vape pens) and you get the number one form of litter found in the Great Lakes.  You also get a toxic mess  that harms marine life, wildlife, plant life and all our lives.

What many people don’t know is that tobacco product waste is one of the most common types of plastic waste found. That’s right, plastic. Cigarette filters are made of a plastic called cellulose acetate. When tossed, they dump not only that non biodegradeable plastic, but also the nicotine, heavy metals and many other chemicals into the surrounding environment.

Jenna Brinkworth, Community Engagement Director of Tobacco-Free Roswell Park, picks up trash at Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper’s Spring Sweeps.

And, thanks to the  tobacco industry, there is now even more clean up work to do because a new threat is ravaging our environment — vape waste.

We’re working with Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) and many environmental groups and citizen advocates from across Western New York to help prevent this pollution problem. From cigarette butt cleanups and community education to piloting cigarette butt bins around our Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and the BNMC campus, we hope to bring those numbers as close to zero as possible.

To do your part, talk to friends and family about this issue. Or join a BN Waterkeeper cleanup. Working together, we can get people to use butt bins, think before they flick that butt and create healthier, greener communities we all enjoy.