Thank you for not smoking in your park! We are slowly making progress in the amount of smoke in the air and cigarette butts on the walkways of our green spaces. Thanks to all of you who have made an effort to help us keep Burnside Park tobacco free.
Some may not see it as a big deal, but to park lovers, it certainly is. By far, the most commonly discarded piece of waste in the world is a cigarette butt. In fact, 176 billion pounds of butts are disposed of each year in the U.S. alone, and 65% of those are disposed of by littering. Surprisingly, the majority of Americans don’t think of a cigarette butt as litter. Yet cigarette butts are made of more than just paper and tobacco and are not biodegradable. Each cigarette filter is made up of tiny particles of plastic, which don’t break down naturally and negatively impact the earth when not disposed of properly. Not what you want mixed in the soil of a park.
Here’s how you’re helping by keeping the parks tobacco free.
Cleaner waterways in Rhode Island.
A huge number of littered butts eventually end up in our storm drains, and then in our waterways. The plastic in the filters do not break down in water and end up being eaten by aquatic life or washing up on our beaches. It’s not just the plastic either, it’s also the chemicals left in the butt that enter the water. Consider this study by San Diego State University: Researchers put a single cigarette butt into a liter of water. The butt raised the toxicity level so high that it resulted in 50% of the fish in the water dying, just from one butt.
More money for the parks.
The Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy, the Downtown Improvement District and the City of Providence spend time and money to clean up all those butts and keep our city looking clean. The Department of Parks and Recreation estimates that thousands of cigarette butts are thrown in Burnside Park between cleanings! These are resources that could be spent on any number of amazing things to make these public spaces even more welcoming to residents and tourists.
Cleaner air in Providence.
Our green spaces provide a healthy oasis in the middle of the city to recharge, relax and enjoy the fresh air. Excessive smoke is a deterrent for many citizens to sit and enjoy this open space. The risks from second-hand smoke are particularly bad for the kids in our community, many of whom visit the parks with their family or school and enjoy our kid-focused activities.
Illustration by Kalie Boyne.