Getting handle on litter problem helps Lake Superior

It’s not uncommon to see discarded cigarette remnants littering roadsides, parks and even the lakeshore. However, a recent collaboration between the Superior Watershed Partnership, the city of Marquette and community volunteers aims to help address the issue, as they have installed five containers in the city that discarded cigarettes can be placed in, and later recycled.

The containers are made by TerraCycle, which specifically recycles cigarette filters that are sent in to it. For every pound that is collected, TerraCycle will donate $1 to the Keep America Beautiful organization.

This effort is critical, as cigarette filters don’t break down easily and can remain in an area long after they are discarded. Furthermore, they pose a fire risk if not put out properly and can even make their way through the stormwater system to Lake Superior, where they can contaminate the fresh water that humans, plants and animals depend upon.

“There were a handful of sites that were identified where cigarette butts were washing up,” said Kathleen Henry, education and special projects coordinator for the SWP.

Community volunteer Margaret Brumm is involved in the effort.

“I started this summer, horrified to find fireworks debris and cigarette butts in all the dry grass, and I wrote a letter to all the city commissioners,” Brumm said. “There was a lot of behind-the scenes discussion.

“One day the Superior Watershed Partnership reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this. Do you want to be involved?'”

Brumm agreed to taking part in the project because she spends time traveling “from parking lot to parking lot” with a broom and a dustpan, sweeping up the debris.

“When I was a young person, people smoked everywhere and dumped stuff everywhere,” she said. “People didn’t wear seat belts. People smoked indoors. The cultural change in my own lifetime has been extraordinary. We’re now taking it one step further. It’s not acceptable to throw this on the ground.

This is where the new containers, such as the one placed at Clark Lambros’ Beach Park, can come into play.

“What we’re try to do is change the cultural expectation, which is, you don’t see anybody smoking indoors anymore,” she said. “Maybe pretty soon, we don’t see anybody flicking cigarettes on the ground. We see them looking for this, or just being aware to put it in the trash bags.”

We commend all involved parties for their efforts to keep our lands and waters clean. We encourage residents to not only avoid littering, but to be part of the solution by picking up litter and properly disposing of it. It may seem like a small action, but it’s one that will help protect Lake Superior, and by extension, all living things that depend upon its clean, fresh waters.


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