Butt management

New cigarette recycling station for motorists begins

Citizen volunteer Margaret Brumm, left, empties cigarettes butts into a new recycling station for motorists at the Marquette Board of Light and Power in Marquette. Looking on is Matthew Zavislak, manager of administrative services at the BLP. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — Car ashtrays, for whatever reason, typically are a thing of the past.

That doesn’t mean smokers have to toss their cigarette butts out the window onto streets and green space.

To make it easier for motorists to dispose of this kind of trash, a cigarette recycling station has been set up at the edge of the parking lot at the Marquette Board of Light and Power at 2200 Wright St., in Marquette.

The cigarette butts will be sent postage-free to TerraCycle, an Illinois company that handles materials to be recycled.

Spearheading the effort is citizen volunteer Margaret Brumm, who already was instrumental in having several cigarette-butt recycling tubes placed in various locations in Marquette, including Clark Lambros’ Beach Park.

“It’s a pilot program, so the more word we get out and the more people know about, the more chance it has to work,” Brumm said of the new station.

The station was set up with the cooperation of the BLP.

“It’s an attempt to have a station available for motorists who may have cigarette butts in their vehicle, and instead of dropping them on the ground when they’re getting out of their vehicle at their next stop, they can pull into the lot here and empty an entire ashtray,” Brumm said.

The two cans at the new station, she noted, can accommodate a large amount of cigarette butts.

Wright Street could be a new corridor for recycling.

“We have a lot of traffic on this road,” Brumm said. “The city does recycling of glass down the road at the Municipal Service Center, so we thought we could get people to come and drop off their cigarette butts.”

Brumm will collect the butts weekly and ship them to TerraCycle.

The recycling tubes that were set up in July, she said, resulted in over 89,000 cigarette butts shipped to the company from the area.

“We’re starting much earlier this year,” Brumm said.

Brumm said vehicle ashtrays were phased out about 10 to 15 years ago because smoker numbers have declined. However, the people who do smoke tend to smoke in their vehicles — and those butts end up on the ground or in the trash, which means the landfill, she said.

“This way, with the recycle, it’s out of the county and it goes someplace where they turn it into lawn furniture,” Brumm said.

She pointed out that stormwater drains become filled with cigarette butts, which find their way into Lake Superior.

“These are terrible in the lake because fish just go for movement and they swallow this, and the filter is the filthiest part of the cigarette,” Brumm said. “There’s nicotine. There’s other toxins in there.”

Those harmful substances then move up the food chain when something else eats the fish, she said.

“So every time you don’t throw a cigarette butt on the ground, you’re making it healthier for the environment,” Brumm said.

Matthew Zavislak, manager of administrative services at the BLP, said the BLP became involved after Brumm approached the agency about the effort.

Zavislak thought about how he could make the drop-off point stand out.

“Basically, just took some wood that was left over from projects at my house, and this is what came of it,” Zavislak said.

Brumm said she was impressed that the structure was stained, and credited Chocolay Ace Hardware with donating the sand for the metal buckets and Lowe’s with selling the buckets at cost.

“I’m hoping people get used to dropping off their glass down the road, and it’s like, ‘Hey, I’ve got a cigarette. I’m going to drop it here instead of dropping it on the ground,'” Brumm said.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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