Program aims to keep butts off the ground

Unsmoke Canada and TerraCycle are launching a multi-year, community-based recycling partnership to collect and recycle the world’s most littered item: cigarette butts. The free, national program will aim to divert hundreds of thousands of butts each month from the ground and landfills.

In Canada, an estimated 8,000 tonnes of cigarette butts are littered each year, the majority within three metres of an ashtray. Cigarette butts are non-biodegradable and contain filters made from cellulose acetate, which can take up to 15 years to decompose.

The new partnership builds on the work Unsmoke Canada began in 2019 to combat littering in local communities.

“This partnership is an example of how we are making tangible and measurable improvements to the problem of cigarette butt littering,” said Vasie Papadopoulos, communications manager at Rothman’s Benson & Hedges Inc., which started Unsmoke Canada.

“We are looking forward to working with TerraCycle and communities to help clean up and appropriately recycle cigarette litter.”

TerraCycle’s process

All cigarette butts collected through the program will be shipped to TerraCycle for recycling. When processed, the paper and tobacco are separated from the filter and composted. The filter is then recycled into plastic pellets which can be used by manufacturers to create products such as shipping pallets, ashtrays and park benches.

Through the cigarette recycling program, Unsmoke Canada intends to expand on TerraCycle’s efforts, which has collected over 155 million cigarette butts, engaged more than 5,000 collection points across Canada and distributed in excess of 1,550 cigarette butt recycling receptacles across ten provinces since 2012.

“TerraCycle’s cigarette recycling programs have already had great success across Canada,” said Tom Szaky, founder and CEO of TerraCycle.

“This partnership with Unsmoke Canada will create even more opportunities for Canadians to dispose of their cigarettes in a responsible way, helping to keep shorelines, sidewalks and communities clean.”

Community organizations can join the TerraCycle program here. For every pound of cigarette waste collected by the program, Unsmoke Canada will donate $1 to the community group’s non-profit or charity of choice.