PBC sends the butts to the cans

san jose mercuryPBC sends the butts to the cans

submitted photo Cigarette container made by Eco-Pop Designs at Sharp Park.

Eco-Pop Designs is owned and run by Pacifican Mitch Reid. In business for over 25 years, Reid’s company combines “ecology, pop art and invention to make public recycling collection containers, and other environmental friendly products made from the highest amount of reused and recycled materials.”

“Mitch Reid is designing and manufacturing cigarette containers for the Pacific Beach Coalition (PBC), the County of San Mateo and others as well,” said Lynn Adams, president of the PBC. “They are in the processing of being installed at all three beaches in Pacifica and several other locations.”

PBC received a $5,000 “Keep America Beautiful” grant and has raised close to another $2,000 to work on this project. In addition, Kathryn Cooke (San Mateo County pollution prevention specialist) has joined in the efforts to bring additional collection containers to Pacifica and several other cities in a pilot study to reduce tobacco litter. The efforts to do something about the thousands of cigarette butts collected by PBC volunteers at every beach cleanup and every street cleaning has been on Adams mind for years.

“Smoking laws have pushed people outside but no one has installed ashtrays,” Adams said. “Smokers must get rid of their filters before entering a building but there are no containers for them.”

“Even car manufacturers have stopped putting ashtrays in newer models,” Adams continued, “so many smokers resort to flicking them out the window while driving. Or, they smoke outside their car and discard the butt on the ground.”

In February of 2014, the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Marine Debris Program reported that over a 25-year period, volunteers working with the Ocean Conservancy sponsored one-day annual International Coastal cleanup, picked up 52.9 million cigarette butts. Cigarette butts are made of plastic. They do not biodegrade. Consumption of cigarette butts, done unknowingly by wildlife, can lead to death.

“If a toddler or baby ingested one filter and did not receive emergency treatment, they would die from the poisons in the filter,” Adams said.

Adams noted that about two years ago, a Rockaway resident brought two large planter pots to Rockaway Beach, filled them with sand and placed them by the two beaches there.

“Smokers used them,” Adams said. “So the PBC launched a ‘Pot Brigade’ to put simple black nursery pots filled with sand by the benches at Sharp Park and some on the Pacifica Pier. To date, thousands of butts have been collected from the pots but they are hard to maintain and visually unattractive.”

Lynn Adams asked Mitch Reid if he would consider designing a container to collect and recycle cigarette butts.

“It was a difficult challenge since the containers would be located at the shoreline and would have to deal with corrosion,” Reid said. “It took about a year to develop a prototype and test it. Then it took several months to figure out how to manufacture it using marine grade type 316 stainless steel. The first six units were installed a few weeks ago. After seeing how they were weathering we made some adjustments to the manufacturing process. An additional six to eight units will be installed later this week.”

Reid said there are two top cap styles: Earth Globe and Fish. Each container holds 500 cigarette butts. The inner collection container is held in place with a keyed alike cam lock, and emptied from the bottom. The inner wall of the container has a woven fiber lava rock heat deflection shield to reduce risk to the public. The containers are installed using tamper resistant bolts. The designer said a total of 14 containers will be installed for the PBC. In addition, San Mateo County sponsored one unit at the Seahorse Saloon, another at Winters Tavern, and one additional unit each at Linda Mar Beach and the Pacifica Pier. The County has also purchased 15 Reid cigarette containers for use in a number of locations including Pillar Point Harbor and Oyster Point Marina. The 23-year Pacifica resident calls his work “a way to provide kindness to the planet.”

“We invite even nonsmokers to pick up discarded filters and put them in these containers or into a garbage can,” Adams said. “We also invite people to teach others about the harms of the filters to the fish and wildlife and to use their voice to get them to discard their filters safely.”

“And for people in our neighborhoods who smoke,” Adams went on to say, “please keep a can or container outside of your home or on your route. Filters in the streets wash into the storm drains and into our creeks and ocean, killing wildlife on every leg of their journey.”

At the PBC July 11 beach cleanup, 11 pounds of cigarette butts collected from containers were sent to be recycled into useful products through www.terracycle.com.

Pacifica Tribune correspondent Jean Bartlett can be reached at editor@jeansmagazines.org.