Inspired by the Hold Onto Your Butt Campaign created by the Surfrider Foundation, an organization dedicated to the protection of ocean, waves, and beaches in San Francisco, neighbors planned a community-wide cigarette butt pick-up along Balboa Street between 32nd and 38th Avenues.
Pawel Dlugosz, a neighbor and one of the organizers of the effort, spread the word to the community through a variety of channels. He posted to his Nextdoor neighborhood as well as the surrounding neighborhoods, encouraging neighbors to sign up to clean and protect their streets.
On a sunny Saturday, the group of enthusiastic volunteers headed out into the neighborhood, armed with salad tongs and 8-gallon trash bags. Together, they picked up more than 6,000 cigarette butts and filled 8-10 of the large trash bags with other rubbish along the way.
The reaction from the community was nearly instantaneous: one neighbor happened to drive by the clean-up and pulled over to give the group of volunteers a $100 gift certificate to her local bakery as a token of her gratitude. Other neighbors chimed in online, sharing their appreciation for the clean-up.
Pawel notes that the group’s efforts didn’t stop there. A few weeks later, the volunteers met once again – this time, to install ashcans along Balboa, with each location based on the amount of litter collected during the clean-up. The receptacles allow smokers to dispose of their cigarette butts safely and keep Balboa litter-free, and were provided by the Surfrider Foundation and paid for by the Richmond District Neighborhood Center (RDNC). Each receptacle has instructions to recycle cigarette butts in three languages: English, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
“The installation was a success,” says Pawel. “I must say, of all the things I’ve done to clean up our neighborhood, this feels the most rewarding. I’m still in utter disbelief how well the cigarette-centric cleanup was received. This is just a wonderful example of how a community can rally behind a joint cause with speed, effectiveness, and kindness – lots and lots of human kindness.”
The cigarette butt receptacles will be maintained, funded, and emptied by RDNC, and the butts sent to TerraCycle in New Jersey for proper recycling.
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