Over 27,600 cigarette butts picked up at Keep Tahoe Blue cleanups in 2018
Lake Tahoe, CA – The League to Save Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Waters Supplies Association (TWSA) are in the process of distributing an initial run of 250 cigarette butt collection canisters at key locations around Lake Tahoe. The aim of the Tahoe Cigarette Disposal Program is to reduce toxic chemicals from littered cigarette butts from leaching into the environment, to protect wildlife, and to reduce litter on Lake Tahoe’s shoreline and vicinity.
The program came about after the League noticed that cigarette butts were the top collected items at cleanup events. At the League’s most recent cleanups this month (the Tahoe City Cleanup and the Bike Path Cleanup) over 4,500 cigarette butts were collected. Last year more than 27,600 cigarette butts were collected in and around Lake Tahoe by the League. That number was a call to action.
“We are so excited to be partnering with the TWSA to build the awareness that cigarette butts are a toxic form of litter that doesn’t biodegrade,” said Marilee Movius, community engagement manager for the League. “With the help of these new cigarette butt canisters, it will be easy for everyone to properly dispose of cigarette butts and Keep Tahoe Blue. We are looking forward to collecting data to analyze again next year and hoping to see a dramatic drop in the amount of cigarette litter,” she added.
An estimated 98 percent of cigarette filters are made of plastic fibers, which means they do not biodegrade and can become a form of microplastic.
“Though they are small, they are numerous. Cigarette litter pollutes the Tahoe watershed which is our regional source of drinking water. They are also a huge concern for wildfire risk. This program offers an opportunity to partner with multiple agencies towards the common goal of providing more public access to a proper disposal method for cigarette butts, and reducing the number we see thrown improperly in our communities,” said Madonna Dunbar, executive director, TWSA.
The bins were obtained through a Keep America Beautiful grant program. The League and TWSA plan to install canisters throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin starting this June and running through 2019. The League will be coordinating on the South Shore and TWSA will be coordinating on the North Shore. The Tahoe Cigarette Disposal program is branded to fit in with the Take Care Tahoe campaign, and each canister is designed to be highly visible and include education on how cigarette butts have harmful impacts to the environment and wildlife
Using data from the League’s past cleanups, canisters will first be installed in partnership with land managers at hot spots or areas known to generate significant cigarette butt litter. “If you see an area that could benefit from a canister, let us know,” said Jesse Patterson, chief strategy officer for the League. “We want to deploy as many canisters as possible, as quickly as possible to the areas most in need, and we need the public to help us make this program a success.”
Once a location is identified, the League and TWSA work to find an “owner” of the canister to monitor it, record the amount of cigarettes collected and to empty it properly.
If you are a business owner who would like to adopt and install a canister, or if you are a concerned citizen who would like to inform the League of a hot spot to install a canister, please visit keeptahoeblue.org/cigarettedisposal.
The League to Save Lake Tahoe, also known by the slogan “Keep Tahoe Blue,” is Tahoe’s oldest and largest nonprofit environmental advocacy organization. The League is dedicated to community engagement and education, and collaborating to find solutions to Tahoe’s environmental challenges. The League’s main campaigns include combating pollution, promoting restoration, tackling invasive species and protecting Tahoe’s shoreline. keeptahoeblue.org
The Tahoe Water Suppliers Association (TWSA) is comprised of municipal water suppliers in the Lake Tahoe Basin whose source of drinking water is Lake Tahoe. The purpose of the TWSA is to protect the quality of the purveyors’ drinking water from waterborne contaminants that are potentially harmful to human health. Source water protection is an effective tool in a multi-barrier approach to protecting drinking water. In accordance with federal and state guidelines, members of the association have established a Watershed Control Program (WCP) and report annually on their progress. The group provides public education on the quality and value of local tap waters (DRINK TAHOE TAP ®) and other ways people can protect the watershed.