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'Buttwatch' campaign aims to reduce and recycle cigarette waste

Cigarette butts

While working on a photography project, Vancouver resident Yasmin Schepens saw a lot of trash on her daily trips to and from the beach, but there was one item in particular that stood out: cigarette butts.

They were small and easy to overlook, but once she started looking for them, Schepens found they outnumbered any other kind of litter she picked up.

"Cigarette butts are everywhere," she told CTV News.

"They're often overlooked because they're so small, but they're so significant. Their impact is so significant."

Between the toxic chemicals and microplastics they contain, cigarette butts can quickly contaminate small bodies of water, Schepens said.

She began collecting cigarette butts and keeping them separate from the other trash she picked up, and her work soon grew into "Buttwatch," a website and public information campaign that aims to reduce cigarette waste and encourage people to dispose of butts properly.

A Buttwatch poster has been put up at 10 different bus shelters around the city, and Schepens encourages people to print out a copy and post it on a local bulletin board.

She also wants people to start collecting cigarette buts like she does, because it turns out they can do more than sit in a landfill.

"They can actually be recycled," Schepens said.

When she gathers a large collection of cigarette butts, she ships them, for free, to a company called Terracycle, which specializes in recycling complex waste. 

The company processes microplastics for reuse, selling the resulting raw materials to other companies for a variety of purposes.

"They make park benches out of them, and picnic tables and all kinds of things," Schepens said.

More information about Buttwatch can be found on the campaign's website Top Stories

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