- The city of Columbia MO's Downtown Community Improvement District has bought and installed 18 cigarette boxes downtown to collect filters and has ordered 32 more at $50 each from TerraCycle, a Trenton, NJ recycling company.
- The cigarette waste is shipped to TerraCycle's New Jersey facility, then moved off site for processing. The remaining paper and tobacco are composted. The plastic is melted and turned into pellets. And the filters are converted to industrial products like plastic lumber and railroad ties.
- The company's Cigarette Waste Brigade program, which has collected more than 45 million cigarette filters, began overseas and in Canada, came to the U.S. in 2014, and is now in 17 cities, including New Orleans, Seattle, St Louis, and Los Angeles. TerraCycle donates $1 for every pound of cigarette waste collected to the litter-fighting nonprofit, Keep America Beautiful.
Cigarettes are the most frequently littered form of trash in the U.S., according to a 2010 study by Keep American Beautiful. And that waste lasts and lasts, as it's made of condensed cellulose acetate, a plastic that takes years to break down.
Cigarette filters have been an especially big problem in Columbia's downtown district, particularly outside of bars and nightclubs as more people smoke outside since smoking inside these establishments was banned.
"(Controlling cigarette litter) is really important for us because our storm water system empties into Flat Branch Creek," said Katie Essing, Executive Director of the Downtown Community Improvement District. "By (preventing cigarettes) from going into our storm water, it helps keep our creeks clean."