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Roanoke wants fewer butts littering its downtown roads, sidewalks

Cigarette butts are made from plastic that doesn’t biodegrade

Stormwater utility launches campaign to reduce cigarette butts in downtown Roanoke
Stormwater utility launches campaign to reduce cigarette butts in downtown Roanoke

ROANOKE, Va. – Downtown Roanoke is trying to clean up its streets. The city is launching a campaign to get people to stop littering cigarette butts in the Central Business District.

Workers noticed a lot of cigarette butts on the city’s streets and sidewalks, which ultimately end up in streams and rivers and can hurt the environment.

The abandoned butts also detract from the downtown experience, according to city officials.

Cigarette butts are made from plastic that doesn’t biodegrade and also contain harsh chemicals that can hurt both aquatic plant and animal.

That’s why the city is starting an educational campaign and plans to add receptacles downtown where people can throw away cigarette butts.

“Cigarette butts themselves, although that filter looks like it’s cotton, it’s actually made out of plastic. And so plastic never really goes away, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. But that plastic is there. It enters into our food web and so it’s a big problem,” said Leigh Anne Weitzenfeld, from the city’s Stormwater Utility.

You can also recycle cigarette butts through special programs like TerraCycle.

To kick off the campaign, the city is starting a jingle competition to share the message. To learn more, click here.

This campaign is in partnership with Clean Valley Council, Downtown Roanoke Inc., Roanoke Arts Commission, Keep Virginia Beautiful, and the Solid Waste Division.

The goals of the campaign are to reduce cigarette litter by making disposal more accessible and to create awareness by educating citizens on how their actions directly connect to local waterways.

In a news release, the city listed components of the campaign:

  • Anti-littering jingle competition with the Roanoke Arts Commission and Downtown Roanoke Inc. – March 1-31, 2021
  • New cigarette butt receptacles and outreach placed downtown with help from the Clean Valley Council – April 2021
  • A focus on encouraging and implementing recycling cigarette butt waste – Summer 2021
  • Partnerships with business owners and downtown residents to implement creative ways to reduce cigarette butt litter with help from Downtown Roanoke Inc. – Summer 2021

About the Author:

Lindsey joined the WSLS 10 team as a reporter in February 2019 and is thrilled to call Roanoke her new home!