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Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition installs Butt Buttlers

By Carolyn Zachary | May 12, 2020
Courtesy of: Marianne McKinney Gene Randall and Tom Murphy of Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition install a Butt Buttler in downtown Belfast.

Belfast — Members of the Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition have stepped up to address a problem discussed in City Council meetings: cigarette butts littering city streets.

BBWC volunteers have installed 12 Butt Buttlers — containers for discarded cigarette butts — along Main and High streets in downtown Belfast.

Cigarette filters are made of a plastic called cellulose acetate. According to a 2019 article in National Geographic, when discarded, they dump not only that plastic, but also the nicotine, heavy metals (e.g., arsenic, lead), and many other chemicals they’ve absorbed into the surrounding environment.

Worldwide, cigarette butts are the top plastic polluters, with an estimated two-thirds of the trillions of filters used each year tossed into the environment, according to National Geographic. A recent study found that cigarette butts inhibit plant growth. They also routinely get into waterways, and eventually oceans.

Left on the streets in Belfast, cigarette butts are washed down the streets and drained directly into the bay. Butts in the water look like morsels of food, and are hazardous to marine animals, which can eat them.

"Making use of the Butt Butlers will protect our bay and the life in it," said Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition volunteer Marianne McKinney. This project was undertaken by a group of BBWC members, including McKinney and husband Gene Randall, Susan and Kevin Connolly, and Debbie and Tom Murphy.

The issue of butt litter and smokers on city sidewalks came up last year in City Council discussions about a proposed smoking ban. Ultimately, no ban was approved, but the Watershed Coalition had formed a committee to look into the issue and proposed this solution to the litter problem. In October, the council approved the proposal and gave the committee permission to install Butt Buttlers on lampposts downtown.

Kevin Connolly told The Republican Journal Tuesday that, consistent with BBWC environmental principles, the collected butts will be recycled — sent to Terracycle, a company in New Jersey, where they will be used in the manufacture of park benches, industrial-strength pallets and other industrial products.

Funds for the Butt Buttler project were provided by BBWC, Coburn Shoes, The Eco Store, Delvino’s Grill & Pasta House and Front Street Pub. For further information, or to get involved, contact Kevin Connolly at connollykevin58@gmail.com.

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Three Butt Buttlers, ready for installation by Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition members. (Courtesy of: Marianne McKinney)
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