Approximately 176 million pounds of cigarette butts are discarded in the United States every year. Usually they end up on the ground or in a landfill and leach their toxic chemicals into the water table. Assemblyman Michael G. DenDekker, of Queens New York, wants to do something about that. He recently found out that cigarette butts can be turned into all kinds of useful things, so he proposed a bill for a cigarette recycling program for New York City. It would charge a 1 cent deposit on each cigarette — similar to the current bottle recycling system — to fund the recycling program and get those butts off the street.

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If you live in New York City and you love the earth, you’re probably as furious as we are when you see those little discarded butts hanging out in the gutters and on the sidewalks. Well, the same can be said for the constituent who turned Assemblymen DenDekker onto this idea. After the idea was proposed, DenDekker found lots of uses for recycled cigarettes. If soaked in water they create a solution that can keep steel pipes from eroding, they can be made into sealants and glues, and a clothing maker in Brazil turns them into fabric.

The bill would put the departments of Environmental Conservation and Health in charge of the recycling program, and it would be funded partially by the 1 cent deposits payed by smokers when they purchase a pack. It would be the first recycling initiative of its kind in the country. DenDekker was a smoker for 30 years, but has since quit and doesn’t mind seeing smokers pay more for their habit, especially because of the waste they cause in our cities. “This is something that is going to be a long process,” DenDekker noted, “but imagine if we had started cleaning them up 20 years ago.”

+ Michael G. DenDekker

Via New York Times