Vancouver is launching a pilot program to recycle cigarette butts in an effort to clean up one of the most pervasive types of urban trash.

As part of the program, 110 receptacles to collect butts will be mounted on posts around the city's downtown.

The butts will be collected by employees from the city's Downtown Eastside, who will take them to United We Can, which already runs a recycling depot for bottle collectors.

"We've heard loud and clear that people want easy and convenient ways to keep our downtown streets and public spaces clean," said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Deputy Mayor Andrea Reimer said the recycling program is believed to be the first of its kind in the world.

Once the butts are collected they will be recycled by TerraCycle Canada, which hopes to expand the program to cities around the world. The company says the butts will be recycled into a variety of industrial products, such as plastic pallets.

"Cigarette waste is the most littered item across the globe," said Nina Prewal, the general manager of the recycling company whose offices are located in Ontario.

Prewal said cigarette butts are made from cellulose acetate, which does break down slowly in the environment but never loses its toxicity, thus poisoning essential links in the aquatic food chain.

Other groups involved in the project include a community group called Embers and the Downtown Business Improvement Association.

During the summer a community group in the city's West End ran a one-day pilot project that paid people between one and 10 cents per cigarette butt, but this new program will not pay a deposit for the butts.