- The Alliance for the Great Lakes and Chicago Park District are launching a pilot program intended to reduce cigarette butt littering on beaches using dual-purpose "voting boxes." The boxes serve as butt receptacles by acting as a ballot box in which smokers drop their "vote" into one of two compartments in support of or against something fun that involves rivalry. For instance, they will vote for one of two competing sports teams, or deep dish pizzas vs. Chicago-style hot dogs.
- Each of the $280 boxes holds 400 to 600 cigarette butts and the Alliance will keep tabs on the weight and volume of the collected waste, which will be shipped to New Jersey-based TerraCycle. TerraCycle recycles cigarette waste into plastic pellets and other industrial materials, while composting the tobacco.
- The Alliance and Loyola University in Chicago will team to determine whether the bins, created by London environmental charity Hubbub, curb the litter.
The Alliance is banking that this catchy and fun idea will engage smokers while acting as beach stewards. And it was time to come up with an idea — this particular one is also implemented in London and Boston — because a 2007 smoking ban at Chicago's beaches has not been working. Cigarette butts are the most common trash picked up on these ocean spots; more than 52,600 cigarette butts were collected along Chicago beaches in 2015, comprising 27% of the litter, according to The Alliance.
Meanwhile, a 2009 report by nonprofit Keep America Beautiful found when ash receptacles are available, cigarette butt littering goes down.
"If you are providing a trash receptacle really bright and fun to engage with, people are more likely to do the right thing and put trash in the right spot," Alliance's Engagement Director Jennifer Caddick told Chicago Tribune. Many other cities have also tackled cigarette butt recycling, including New Orleans, Seattle, St. Louis,and Columbia, MO.