Butt, butt, butt…4,205 cigarette butts found on Algoma’s Lake Michigan shoreline!
Cigarette butt litter is a major problem on Great Lakes beaches. Is it also a problem on Crescent Beach and Algoma’s adjacent Lake Michigan shoreline? That is the question “citizen scientist” Algoma School District middle school, high school and Pathfinder Academy students and Boy Scout volunteers set out to answer this spring. Over a six-week period these youth volunteers collected and counted cigarette butts found along our lakeshore from Heritage Park to the south end of Crescent Beach. A total of 4,205 butts were collected!
Where did they come from? While some were left behind by beach visitors, many are flicked from passing cars. Also, half the storm water drains in the City of Algoma empty directly to the beach. A cigarette butt dropped on a city street may also end up on Crescent Beach.
Why does it matter? Well, there is the “yuck factor” of seeing butts littered at Crescent Beach and along our shoreline. But it isn’t just a matter of unsightly trash. It is a common misconception the cigarette’s filter is made of cotton. In fact, it is actually plastic that contains leftover toxins. This non-biodegradable material can be mistaken as food by wildlife and leach toxins onto the beach and into the water.
Given the results of this experiment, the City of Algoma Parks and Recreation Department is exploring the purchase of outdoor ashtrays for Crescent Beach. Smokers can help by disposing of the entire cigarette butt appropriately wherever they are in the city. Thanks to the teachers, students, scout leaders and scouts that assisted with this effort.