Public Health

Tobacco Waste Cleanup at the American River Parkway

Simply look around. Tobacco litter is everywhere: from local grocery store parking lots to San Francisco Beaches to the American River Parkway here in Sacramento. In fact, cigarette butts are the most common toxic waste found in cleanups and can make up 37 percent of the total waste in California.

Tobacco does not just impact the health of individuals; it also negatively affects the environment. When cigarette butts, e-cigarette devices, and other tobacco waste is not disposed of properly, it pollutes water, air, and land with toxic chemicals. Unfortunately, there is a new threat to our environment with the growing e-cigarette market. E-cigarette waste is especially concerning given the single-use products made of plastics that cannot biodegrade under any circumstances and the classification of these products as both biological and hazardous waste.

Discarded cigarette butts have been linked to large wildfires, resulting in the destruction of wildlife, vegetation, and property. Cigarette-induced fires claim hundreds of lives in California each year, not to mention the millions of dollars in property damage. Furthermore, cigarette butts leach toxic chemicals into the environment such as arsenic, lead, and nicotine which can contaminate water and poison wildlife.

Concerned about the impact of tobacco litter on the environment, Breathe California Sacramento Region’s Smoke-Free Sacramento project organized a Tobacco Waste Cleanup Event at the American River Parkway. On October 9th, 31 volunteers joined Breathe Staff and the Equestrian Trail Patrol at River Bend Park to do their part in cleaning the American River Parkway. In addition to collecting all kinds of trash, volunteers kept tobacco litter in separate bags and recorded how many tobacco-related litter items they found.

In under 2 hours, the 31 volunteers were able to collect 1,841 pieces of tobacco waste! Most of the collected tobacco waste included cigarette butts, cigarette packaging such as cartons, cigar and cigarillo wrappers, mouth pieces, and a few pieces of electronic cigarette or vape packaging. This tobacco waste is displayed in glass jars and will be used to visually show and educate the community and decision makers on the impacts of tobacco and tobacco waste.

We hope to continue to organize tobacco waste cleanups where volunteers can join us to keep the environment and our beautiful parks like the American River Parkway pristine for all to enjoy!

Follow us on Instagram @sacbreathe and check out the calendar on our website sacbreathe.org to learn about future events!

By: Deenpal Kaur (MPH Student and Breathe Intern)

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