By: Sherry Lippiatt
At any given time, the California State Legislature typically has a number of proposed bills that aim to address the marine debris issue. One of them, introduced last month by California Assemblymember Mark Stone, would place a $500 fine on the sale of any single-use cigarette filters, or cigarette butts. Cigarette butts are one of the most common marine debris items; over 25 years of the Ocean Conservancy’s one-day annual International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers picked up 52.9 million cigarette butts.
The intent of my post is not to debate the policy itself (or whether or not it will pass). I want to point out a statistic slipped into the bill. According to Stone, the California Department of Transportation estimates that the cost to cleanup cigarettes on roadways in the state is $41 million annually. Let’s repeat that: cleaning up cigarette butts alone costs California an estimated $41 million per year.
Under current CA laws, littering from your vehicle can result in a $1,000 fine and a requirement to spend eight hours cleaning up trash, but it’s clear that this litter is still an issue. Regardless of whether or not you agree with this bill’s approach, preventing cigarette butt litter is going to require creative solutions, increased awareness, and the collective effort of individual consumers, businesses, industry, and policy makers.