In two-and-a-half hours, the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association collected more than 35,000 cigarette butts for its pilot buy-back initiative.
On Friday (Aug. 9), interns with the Downtown Surrey BIA spent part of the afternoon collecting and counting cigarette butts from people in the community.
Area enhancement intern Jeanette Lim said the idea was to combat cigarette waste, with a slogan of “be your city’s superhero.” Some of the interns dressed up in some familiar superhero costumes such as Captain Marvel and Spider-Man.
“Our goal is to get cigarette butts off the streets because that is the number one most littered item in the world,” Lim told the Now-Leader during the event, adding that “litter is a huge problem in downtown Surrey.”
“So we’re trying to tackle that issue.”
For the cigarette buy-back, people could get five cents per butt, with a cap of $50 per person.
The event also included cash prizes. The person to collect the most cigarette butts would win $150, second place was $125, third place was $100, fourth place was $75 and fifth place was $50.
“We had this one guy come with a massive bag and it was a lot of butts. We didn’t even bother counting them, we just gave him the capped money,” she said.
While the event was supposed to last four hours, Lim said they closed up early because they ran out of cash.
Lim said it was mostly people living on the streets who came through with cigarette butts, “which is a good thing because they need the money as well and they can help clean up the city.”
The Downtown Surrey BIA received a $500-grant from the City of Surrey for the pilot project, and Lim said the hope is to be able to bring it back next year on a slightly larger scale.
“I’m hoping that if more cities get on this idea then they will be more aware of the problem of cigarette butts being littered. It’s small and it’s not very noticeable, but it’s damaging.”
After collecting the butts, Lim said they will then be sent to TerraCycle.
The company has a cigarette waste recycling program that recycles all parts of the extinguished cigarettes, cigarette filters, cigar stubs, plastic packaging, inner foil packaging, rolling paper and ash.
According to TerraCycle, the cigarettes and packaging “are separated by composition and melted into hard plastic that can be remolded to make new recycled industrial products, such as plastic pallets.” The ash and tobacco are separated out and composted in a “specialized process.”
Also this month, the BIA has been handing out “pocket ashtrays.”
“The idea is that instead of putting your cigarette butts on the floor, you put it in this reusable bag or pouch, and then when it’s full, you empty it into the garbage can instead of having it all around the city,” Lim said.
The cigarette buy-back initiative was part of the city’s Love Where You Live program.