Rome’s rivers are some of the city’s most prized natural attractions.
But those rivers are constantly threatened by litter. And one of the biggest littering problems found in local rivers is used cigarette butts.
“Once it gets into the sewers, it gets into the rivers and cigarette butts have micro-plastics in them,” Keep Rome-Floyd Beautiful executive director Emma Wells said. “It can be really detrimental to our waterways and we don’t want to put harmful chemicals in those spaces.”
To help fight this problem, Wells applied for and received a grant from Keep America Beautiful’s Cigarette Litter Prevention program. KRFB was one of 47 recipients of the grant and received $2,500 to put towards reducing cigarette litter in the area.
“Statistics show that cigarette butts are the number one littered item,” Wells said. “It’s just smaller so you don’t see it as much as you would a plastic bottle, but there’s definitely more that are littered.”
Although the Breathe Easy Rome ordinance prevents people from smoking on Broad Street and throwing the butts on the sidewalk, that hasn’t stopped some smokers from throwing their cigarette butts into the back streets and parking lots, such as the one behind Harvest Moon Cafe and Mellow Mushroom on East First Street.
“There’s often not a receptacle there or if there is a receptacle, it’s not being used,” Wells said.
After about an hour of picking up cigarettes in this area and the one behind Brewhouse as part of a preliminary scan for the grant, Wells and volunteers had collected 2,400 cigarette butts.
“It was a crazy amount and we could’ve picked up more than we did,” she said.
Moving forward, the organization plans to install receptacles in those areas as well as put in place a county-wide marketing campaign.
The grant also came with free pocket ashtrays for the organization to distribute to local businesses and at events. They have a metal coating to help seal the smell of the butts until the person can find a way to dispose of it properly. The organization is also expecting to give out ash trays for cars as well.
“We’re not trying to ask people not to smoke, but if you are a smoker, please smoke responsibly,” Wells said.