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Don't trash the Kenai — put butts where they belong

Posted: Monday, August 15, 2005

After a brief walk near Bridge Access Rd. and the Spur Highway, I noticed a big problem that needs to be addressed. There were numerous cigarette butts lining the sidewalk and road. Why is it that smokers can't seem to use their ashtrays? The ground is not the place to be disposing your garbage. This is littering and there are fines for this, even though I doubt people get fined very often for this careless act of disrespect to the environment.

Cigarette butts are not completely biodegradable. In researching this littering problem and gathering information from the Keep America Beautiful Web site, I found that the filters are made of cellulose acetate, a plastic that degrades slowly, if at all. These filters trap carcinogenic chemicals that smokers do not want in their lungs and bloodstream.

Littered cigarette butts get carried by wind and water into nearby bodies of water, which in turn, causes the filters to leak into aquatic ecosystems. This threatens the quality of the water and aquatic life. I just recently saw them floating in the Kenai River. Filters have been discovered in the stomachs of fish and birds who mistake them for food. And, do you want your young child picking up a used filter and sticking it in their mouth?

According to Keep America Beautiful Inc., smokers litter about 4.5 trillion cigarette butts yearly. Cigarette butts were the No. 1 item picked up during land and underwater cleanups, according to a 2003 report posted on the Keep America Beautiful Web site. Cigarette butts thrown out of car windows cause many forest fires, and just recently in Anchorage, improperly disposed of butts were the cause of house fires.

If you are a smoker, you have a responsibility to respect the environment and your surroundings just like those of us that don't smoke. I encourage you to think twice before throwing your cigarette butt on the ground, as it is deliberately misplaced waste. Please dispose of litter properly. If you own a business with a "no smoking" policy, please provide an ash receptacle outside for your customers. I also challenge the city officials, along with the police department to do their part in keeping this problem under control.

Ash receptacles should be provided around the community for residents that smoke, specifically in transition points such as entrances to all buildings, etc. This will encourage those who smoke to properly dispose of their cigarette litter. This is an unnecessary problem that needs to get under control. I can't imagine how many butts must be littered along the beaches because of smoking dipnetters. How about starting a "Keep Kenai Beautiful" organization to help combat this problem? For additional information, please check out the Keep America Beautiful Web site at www.kab.org.

Kamichia Spisak

North Kenai



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