Cigarette butt recycling project

The City of Vancouver continues to evaluate the pilot project to recycle cigarette butts. Recently, the City assumed full ownership of the project which helps keep Vancouver's downtown clean and moves us closer to our Greenest City 2020 Action Plan goals.

We will continue to work with United We Can, EMBERS, and the four business improvement areas on the pilot project and will report on its outcome in winter 2015. The City is now moving to the next phase of the project based on lessons learned in recent months. 

Balancing health and litter

In early spring 2014, City staff and Vancouver Coastal Health representatives audited the locations of cigarette butt recycling bins. Based on findings, a number of receptacles have been relocated to discourage unintended smoking areas and promote quitting smoking.

The City has removed and/or relocated some of the receptacles within the existing business improvement areas. New stickers have also been placed on bins that direct people to resources for quitting smoking. These changes are in response to feedback from pilot partners.

Staff will also conduct audits of the amount of cigarette butts collected and investigate if the receptacles create smoking congregation areas.

Pilot project facts

  • There are 100 receptacles, purchased from TerraCycle at a cost of $12,000. Staff will relocate 44 receptacles within existing neighbourhoods and 24 will be removed.
  • We have collected approximately 200 pounds of cigarette butts – that's about 200,000 butts.
  • Cigarette butts are the most consistently littered item on our streets.

Vancouver has long been a global leader in smoking cessation initiatives. It is important that initiatives to reduce cigarette butt litter do not damage this important leadership role or harm ongoing efforts to reduce smoking in Vancouver.

In addition to the health hazards of smoking, cigarette filters are not biodegradable – contrary to popular belief. Filters are made from cellulose acetate, a toxic compound that slowly breaks down in the environment and can poison essential links in the aquatic food chain.

Pilot project background

The cigarette butt recycling pilot program – the first of its kind in the world – launched in November 2013 with the installation of approximately 100 cigarette recycling bins on several blocks within four downtown business improvement areas: Downtown Vancouver, West End, Robson Street, and Gastown.