Virginia legislature considers bill to classify cigarette butts as litter
- The Virginia General Assembly is considering a bill with bipartisan sponsorship that would classify cigarette butts as litter in the state's code, as reported by the Associated Press.
- Delegate Jackson Miller, one of the bill's co-sponsors, said this is based on his experiences as a former police officer. Miller has seen judges dismiss tickets for littering because they don't believe cigarette butts count.
- The bill was passed by a House committee on Jan. 25 and would require passage by the full House and the Senate before coming to Governor Terry McAuliffe for a signature.
The bill itself is simple and would add a small update to the state's definition of litter, which currently includes "all waste material, disposable packages or containers." If the law is passed, the phrase "including cigarette or cigar butts" would be added to that list. According to a fiscal impact statement filed with the legislation, the state code currently "provides for the assessment of a civil penalty of up to $5,000 against a person found by the court to have improperly disposed of solid waste" though full enforcement of this fine for minor cigarette litter would be unlikely.
Cigarette butts are categorized differently throughout the country, but this is part of a growing trend to get a grip on how many of them end up on the street. Many cities have been putting up creative collection receptacles and companies such as TerraCycle have developed ways to recycle the materials within. In Paris — where smokers had been discarding an estimated 350 metric tons of butts per year — the city has launched a large educational campaign and begun fining litterers €68 (approx. $73 USD) for the act.
Litter of any kind is a problem, but the chemicals in cigarette butts can have even more pernicious environmental effects. Yet keeping them out of natural areas has been a challenge. A recent study found that cigarette butts are the most common type of litter on Chicago's beaches despite a smoking ban that took effect in 2007.
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