Cigarette Litter and the Environment

Cigarette Butts in RiverA cigarette butt or cigar tip dropped to the ground seems insignificant.  But follow that butt as it’s carried off by rain into storm drains and eventually to streams and rivers. It now adds up to a big impact on the places we live: In fact, 32% of litter at storm drains is tobacco products.1

Cigarette butt litter creates blight. It accumulates in gutters, and outside doorways and bus shelters. It’s the number one most littered item anywhere. Increasing amounts of litter in a business district, along riverfronts, or recreation areas create a sense that no one cares, leading to more community disorder and crime.2

Cigarette butts and cigar tips don’t disappear.  About 95% of cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic which does not quickly degrade and can persist in the environment.3 Cigar tips, too, are predominantly plastic.

Filters are harmful to waterways and wildlife. Litter traveling through storm drains and water systems, ends up in local streams, rivers, and waterways. Nearly 80% of marine debris comes from land-based sources. Cigarette butt litter can also pose a hazard to animals and marine life when they mistake filters for food4.

Learn more about why cigarette litter matters:

1"Litter in America" 2009 KAB Research
2 "Can the Can" The Economist

3 Clean VA Waterways
4 Faris, J. and Hart, K., Seas of Debris: A Summary of the Third International Conference on Marine Debris, N.C. Sea Grant College Program and NOAA, 1994, title page.


Our program is continually expanding and we are getting very positive feedback.


Casey Eckert,
of Keep Plano Beautiful, TX

How To Do It

According to an Australian report from the New South Wales EPA, three quarters of respondents say that littering is a 'very important' or 'extremely important' environmental issue.