Cigarette butts look harmless but they’re made of plastic and one Coquitlam girl wants to see them cleaned up, one butt at a time.
“Seventy per cent of seabirds and 30% of sea turtles tested have cigarettes butts in their stomachs,” says Aniela Guzikowski, a Coquitlam student.
Guzikowski is launching the Butt Free B.C. campaign to ensure that these bits of plastic waste don’t end up in the ocean — and she knows what she’s talking about.
Recently, she found a cigarette butt in a mussel and another floating in the water at sea pens used by Mossom Hatchery to acclimatize hatcher-raised salmon to the ocean.
“It directly affects what we do with fish,” said Guzikowski, who is a volunteer at Mossom and has the backing of Burrard Inlet Marine Enhancement Society for her Butt Free BC campaign. “As I started researching it became bigger and bigger.”
Recently, UBC researchers found that half the waste on southwestern B.C. beaches is made up of cigarette buts but you can see them closer to home.
At the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex hundreds of butts litter the ground and Guzikowski collected enough to fill a jar and a small plastic bag with just a few minutes of effort.
“It surprises me that they are here, and I’m shocked at how many there are,” said Guzikowski.
Recently, she presented her case for a Butt Free BC to Port Moody, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam councils, in an effort to get funds for a poster contest for local schools this fall.
PoCo has agreed to promote the issue on social media, Port Moody provided a $3,000 community grant and Coquitlam is looking into the issue but has already established a number of cigarette butt receptacles in the city.
Five TerraCycle brand cigarette butt receptacles have been installed along Pinetree Way, between Anson Avenue and the Lafarge Skytrain station. Two more TerraCycle receptacles have recently been installed in the Como Lake Village area and several more may be installed in this area following the completion of the FortisBC project on Como Lake Avenue
More are being considered for public gathering spaces around civic buildings and recreation centres, according to Verne Kucy, environmental projects manager with the city, while Austin Heights Business Improvement Association has installed them, too.
Guzikowski is pleased with these efforts but would like to see people stop dropping their butts onto the ground and is encouraging people to take part in a clean-up in Port Moody at Rocky Point Park on June 8, World Oceans Day.
Leaving these butts on the ground are a risk to children and pets who pick them up, and are endangering marine wildlife, she says, and those willing to help out are invited to register online with the ShorelineCleanup.ca and come out for the morning
As for Guzikowski, you’ll see her there, too, with her tongs, vest, and cleanup bag, picking up cigarette butts, just like she does every week in her bid to make B.C. butt free.