Grant helps Spokane County clean up cigarette litter

Grant helps Spokane County clean up cigarette litter

Little cigarette butts are sparking a big project in Spokane.

Spokane County leaders are using a grant to help keep cigarette litter off the ground and inside new specially designed receptacles. Keep America Beautiful awarded the $5,000 grant to combat cigarette litter on the campus and in limited parts of downtown Spokane. The money paid for 24 new disposal containers, along with car ash trays, and educational materials. The metal disposals are weatherproof and prevent people from getting into them.

Spokane County Solid Waste Department Water Resource Specialist Cassandra Harvey said she hopes the containers will help clean up the Spokane County Campus and protect the environment.

“Cigarette butts do contain harmful chemicals and heavy metals that can contaminate the soil and travel downward and into the aquifer,” Harvey said. “You can see birds and water fowl trying to eat cigarette butts because they mistake them for food.”

Harvey is part of a small group of city and county employees called the Eco Team. In April, six members of the team quantified just how serious they believe the cigarette litter issue is at the county campus. In one hour, they said they collected more than 2,500 butts.

“Yes, we did wear gloves and yes, it was still terribly gross,” Harvey said.

But that collection gave the Eco Team a starting point. They’ll track the amount of cigarette litter on the campus until next May. Then, they’ll release data on what they learned and may apply for more funding or change the program.

Until then, city and county leaders hope you’ll use the new containers and learn more about how cigarette litter impacts the community.

The Eco Team is one of 42 organizations nationwide to receive grant funding through the 2018 Cigarette Litter Prevention Program. The program is the nation’s largest program aimed at reducing cigarette litter.