Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. recently secured a $10,000 grant from Keep America Beautiful to significantly expand cigarette waste recycling efforts in the Downtown neighborhoods.

DGRI's Downtown Ambassadors will use the funds to install 100 more cigarette butt collection urns near Downtown bars, restaurants, transit stops and other high traffic smoking locations.

"This grant enables us to expand the number of places we collect and recycle cigarette butts by 335 percent," said Downtown Ambassador Operations Manager Melvin Eledge. "This will significantly strengthen our efforts to prevent cigarette waste from littering Downtown sidewalks, washing into storm drains and the Grand River and ultimately polluting our Great Lakes beaches."


Tobacco products, consisting mainly of cigarette butts, rank as the most littered item in America, representing nearly 38 percent of litter, according to Litter in America, Keep America Beautiful’s landmark study of litter and littering behavior. (PDF)

Cigarette butts in 2016 accounted for 35 percent of all litter removed from Grand Haven State Park, Grand Haven City Beach and North Beach - the beaches immediately north and south of the channel where the Grand River flows into Lake Michigan - according to the Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach Program.

DGRI in 2016 introduced the cigarette waste recycling program to Downtown Grand Rapids. In its first year, the program collected approximately 173,000 cigarette butts, the remnants of 8,650 packets of cigarettes smoked. Through a partnership with Terra Cycle, the butts are recycled into a variety of industrial products, such as plastic shipping pallets. Any remaining tobacco material is recycled as compost.

DGRI anticipates the results of the program will increase markedly with the additional support and partnership of Keep America Beautiful.

“We are increasingly optimistic about ending cigarette butt litter in America,” said Keep America Beautiful COO Becky Lyons. "Recent cigarette litter reduction numbers show we are moving in the right direction towards making the littering of cigarette butts – and littering in general – socially unacceptable in our country.”

KAB's Cigarette Litter Prevention Program is supported by funding from Philip Morris USA, RAI Services Company and the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company.

Locally, the cigarette waste collection and recycling program is made possible by Downtown property owners through the Downtown Improvement District and the Downtown Development Authority. DGRI administers the DID and DDA, and manages the Ambassador team in partnership with Block by Block on behalf of the Downtown community.

Downtown Ambassadors will deploy the 100 new cigarette butt collection urns this spring in close coordination with Downtown businesses and property owners.