Economic & Environmental Impact

When it comes to cigarette litter, we all pay. Cigarette litter not only affects us as individuals, but also impacts your local community, including business owners and residents as well as the community environment 

Economically, cigarette butt litter:

  • Requires additional sidewalk and street sweeping, greenway and park maintenance, storm drain cleaning, and increased maintenance of storm water filters. 
  • Makes business owners bear the expense of cigarette butt and cigar tip litter cleanup around entrances, exits, sidewalks, and parking lots.
  • Can result in a decline in a city’s foot traffic, tourism, business development, and housing. In fact, the presence of litter in a community decreases property values by a little over 7%. Focusing on small improvements, like reducing cigarette butt litter, creates safer and more economically vibrant communities. 
  • Takes a toll on recreation areas and public spaces. Tobacco litter represents nearly 34.4% of all litter in outdoor recreation areas such as picnic areas, hiking trails, parks, etc. decreasing the appeal of these natural areas. 
  • Creates fire hazards, impacts local wildlife, and eventually contributes to lost tourism and revenue.;

Environmentally, you’ll see the effect of cigarette butt litter as well:

  • 32% of litter at storm drains is tobacco products.1
  • Cigarette butt litter creates blight by accumulating in gutters, and outside doorways and bus shelters.
  • Increasing amounts of litter in a business district, along riverfronts, or recreation areas create a sense that no one cares, leading to more community disorder and crime.2
  • 95% of cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that does not quickly degrade and can persist in the environment.3 
  • Filters from tobacco products are harmful to waterways and wildlife. Nearly 80% of marine debris comes from land-based sources. Cigarette butt litter can also pose a hazard to animals and marine life when they mistake filters for food4.

1 "Litter in America" 2009 KAB Research
2 "Can the Can" The Economist
3 Clean VA Waterways 
4 Faris, J. and Hart, K., Seas of Debris: A Summary of the Third International Conference on Marine Debris, N.C. Sea Grant College Program and NOAA, 1994, title page.