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Keep America Beautiful Month

Image source: Butts Cigarettes Waste – Free photo on Pixabay

Cigarette Statistics1,2

  • Cigarettes were the most littered individual item in America in 2020, accounting for 19.6% of all littered products
    • There was a decline in the amount of littered cigarette butts from 2009 to 2020
  • Cigarettes were more littered than all metal, glass, and organic products combined (19.6% vs 17.7%)
  • Cigarette products were more littered than all paper products combined (19.6% vs 15.2%)
  • Other tobacco products & packaging were the 16th most littered individual item in 2020
  • 86% of people who smoke consider cigarette butts to be litter, but 75% of them throw butts on the ground or out of a car window
  • People who smoke litter as many as 65% of their cigarette butts
  • Cigarette butts can be carried from one area to another. For example, birds have used cigarette butts for lining their nests. Wind and water can move them as well. 4,5

Cigarette Environmental Impacts2,3

  • Cigarette butts are primarily plastic, which only degrades under severe biological circumstances. In practice, cigarette butts generally do not biodegrade
  • Most cigarette filters can take up to 10 years to decompose
  • The sun may break cigarette butts down into smaller pieces of waste,
    • These pieces can dilute into water and soil
    • Toxic materials never disappear
  • Cigarettes cause pollution by being carried off to rivers, beaches, and oceans
  • Compounds, like nicotine, pesticide residues, and heavy meatal can be toxic to fish, aquatic microorganisms, and other animals.
  • Wildfires have been caused by discarded cigarette butts. Wildfires can lead to destruction of wildlife, vegetation, and structures

Image source: Fire Cigarette Butts Tilt – Free photo on Pixabay

Economic Impacts of Litter6

  • Litter cleanup costs an estimated $11.5 billion a year, with business spending $9.1 billion of that amount
  • 93% of homeowners say that a littered neighborhood would decrease their assessment of a home’s value and influence their decision to purchase a property. Cigarette butts can contribute to this, even though they may not be the biggest littered item
  • 55% of realtors think that litter reduce property values by about 9%
  • 60% of property appraisers would reduce a home’s value if it was littered
  • Presence of litter in a community decreases property values by 7% according to the National Association of Home Builders pricing model

E-cigarettes Statsistics1,2

  • There were 894,700 pieces of e-cigarette litter in America in 2020
  • 9% of e-cigarette device owners reported that the device they use doesn’t provide disposal information, such as where to send used batteries
  • 8% of people who vaped in the past 30 days found it inconvenient to dispose of e-cigarette waste responsibly

E-cigarette Environmental Impacts2

  • E-cigarette waste can’t biodegrade even under severe conditions
  • They’ll eventually break down into microplastics and chemicals that pollute waterways and wildlife

What Can You Do?2

  • Join local efforts, like citywide clean up days or adopt-a-trail or road, to help keep your community clean
  • If you smoke or vape, consider quitting. Resources to help with quitting:
  • If you use e-cigarettes:
    • Contact your local waste department, and ask if they accept e-cigarettes or if it could be recycled after the battery is removed
    • Drop them off at a DEA Prescription Take Back Day. Note: you must remove batteries to do so. DEA is not responsible for removing batteries.
  • If you smoke cigarettes and aren’t ready to quit:
    • Consider a pocket ashtray
    • Encourage your community or home to have trash cans or cigarette receptacles so your can properly dispose of butts instead of tossing them on the ground



  1. Litter-Study-Summary-Report-May-2021_final_05172021.pdf (
  2. Tobacco and the environment (
  3. Did you know? | University Health Services (
  4. Cigarettes Butts and the Case for an Environmental Policy on Hazardous Cigarette Waste – PMC (
  5. There is no such a thing as a free cigarette; lining nests with discarded butts brings short-term benefits, but causes toxic damage – PubMed (
  6. KBB-Littering-Facts.pdf (

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