A group in Vancouver's West End is petitioning the province to implement a deposit on cigarette butts to encourage people to turn them in for proper disposal rather than tossing them away.

On Sunday, during Vancouver's Car Free Day, members of the West End Cleanup group ran a pilot project that gave between one and 10 cents per butt or $20 a pound. Within half an hour, they gave away more than $200 in refunds.

"I think that cigarette butt litter is a terrible thing for our city, and I’m glad to see a recycling program getting started with it,"  said West End resident John Zolotared.

'I'm a smoker myself, but I wouldn't want the stuff I'm putting in my lungs dumped into the environment.'—John Zolotared

Zolotared collected more than 300 cigarette butts in five minutes on Denman Street on Sunday.

"I really hope this recycling program becomes an actual thing so that smokers can rethink where they put their butts."

Cigarette filters contain cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that isn’t biodegradable and can take up 10 years to decompose. The toxins inside are detrimental to marine life and other animals, who sometimes mistake the butts for food.

"They’re toxic, they're toxic as hell," Zolotared said.

"I'm a smoker myself, but I wouldn't want the stuff I'm putting in my lungs dumped into the environment."