Alta. town organizes cigarette butt collection

SYLVAN LAKE, Alta. — It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it. The “it” refers to cigarette butt recycling.

The central Alberta town of Sylvan Lake has installed 30 cigarette butt collection receptacles along the waterfront this summer and plans to install more throughout the town.

The lake is a popular tourist destination in central Alberta attracting more a million visitors each year. During its fall 2017 underwater and shoreline cleanup, more than 8,600 cigarette or cigar butts were collected from the waterfront area and another 7,000 collected in spring 2018.

“Our volunteers take an inventory of everything they pick up,” said Joanne Gaudet, communication officer with the Town of Sylvan Lake. “In both cleanups, cigarette butts were the most common type of waste.”

Media coverage of Sylvan Lake’s environmental initiatives spread to the Toronto office of TerraCycle Canada, which reached out to the town. TerraCycle is a private U.S. business headquartered in Trenton, New Jersey.

The town agreed to move forward with a recycling program and bought the collection receptacles from TerraCycle Canada at a cost of $100 each. The cost includes pre-paid, return-shipping labels that can be affixed to boxes of butts and then sent for recycling free of charge.

At TerraCycle, the refuse is sterilized and prepared for processing.

Cigarette butts comprise tobacco, paper and a filter. The residual tobacco and paper are separated out and composted.

The filter, made of a white synthetic fibre called cellulose acetate, is cleaned, melted, and pelletized. These pellets are combined with other plastics and used to make new plastic products, such as pallets and lumber.

The final processing into new products takes place in TerraCycle’s New Jersey office.

Those enrolled in the program receive $1 per pound of waste over three lb. to be contributed to a charity of their choice.

It sounds like a win-win situation.

“Nothing has been sent off yet,” says Gaudet. “Let’s see if it’s as simple as they say.”

Meanwhile, the town has expanded its smoking ban to include more parks and the beach.

“Right now is more of an education period but we’ll be enforcing it as well.”

A first offence comes with a fine of $250.

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