Recycling cigarette butts? It’s happening in Grand Rapids

Posted at 5:37 PM, Apr 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-26 20:34:57-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Grand Rapids city officials are hoping to cut down on cigarette butt litter with new disposal urns scattered throughout downtown.

Melvin Eledge, operations manager and ambassador for Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., says the city is starting out with 17 of the urns, and 12 more are on the way.

In the United States alone, 195 million pounds of cigarette butts are thrown onto the ground every year.  Smokers like Marc Matthews will think twice about throwing it on the ground now that Grand Rapids has the receptacles.

"I think  it's a good thing.  Smoking is definitely a bad habit and it's nice to see that something good can come out of it," Matthews said.

The cigarette butts get sent to a company called Terra Cycle, which turns them into plastic pallets that can be made into a variety of products, mostly commonly railroad ties.   Any leftover tobacco in the cigarettes is repurposed using tobacco-specific composting methods.

The receptacles cost $60 each, but Eledge says there's no price you can put on a clean city.

"We have noticed an impact, a positive impact," he said.  "In the areas that we have selected to put them on they are areas that were heavily blighted with cigarette butts."