British Columbia·WHAT'S YOUR STORY?

Vancouver man wants the city to install more ashtrays

WHAT'S YOUR STORY: A Vancouver resident is tired of seeing cigarette butts staining the streets of Vancouver. He wants the city to install more ashtrays so people have a place to butt out.

"The world is not your ashtray," says John Merzetti to smokers who litter cigarette butts

A Vancouver resident wants the City of Vancouver to install more ashtrays throughout the city, so smokers have a place to butt out. ( Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

A Vancouver resident is tired of cigarette butts staining the streets of Vancouver and he wants the city to install more ashtrays so people have a place to butt out. 

"The world is not your ashtray," said John Merzetti, who lives in the West End, "people have the right to smoke, it's just the irresponsible smokers."

But Vancouver Coastal Health says research doesn't support that smokers use ashtrays, regardless of their abundance or proximity.

"[Research students] observed a number of smokers even when smokers were in vicinity of it, 85% of them deposited butt on the ground rather than in the container," said Meena Dawar, medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health. 
West End resident John Merzetti is tired of cigarette butts in his neighbourhood. He wants the city to install more ashtrays across the city. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

"Helping people to quit smoking is the best way to reduce litter," she said, "having fewer smokers means having fewer litter." 

Dawar says only 10 per cent of adults smoke in the area where Vancouver Coastal Health provides coverage, yet cigarette butts are the most consistently littered item. 

Recycling program

In 2013, the city launched a pilot project to recycle cigarette butts. 

It installed 100 receptacles in November 2013. But in early spring 2014, city staff along with Vancouver Coastal Health found that a number of the receptacles needed to be relocated to discourage unintended smoking areas and promotion of smoking. 

City staff believe 30 pounds of cigarette butts per month have been kept off the streets because of the receptacles – that’s about 30,000 butts per month or 360,000 butts per year. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

"If you have an ashtray right by street furniture, it absolutely does [promote smoking]," said Dawar.

The city plans to remove 24 of the receptacles and relocate 44 of the TerraCycle receptacles, which were purchased at a cost of $12,000. 

The City of Vancouver says it is looking at rolling out a different program by next year.

"It's a balancing act for us," said Albert Shamess, director of waste management and resource recovery at the City of Vancouver. 

"We are trying to collect litter and not promote anything derogatory to health," he said. 

"My goal is to get cigarette butt dispensers in locations that are not an issue to Vancouver Coastal Health that provide opportunity for us to collect cigarette butts in areas that are most prevalent," said Shamess. 

What's your story?

This story is part of a special CBC Vancouver News series, What's Your Story? The series focuses on issues pitched by our audience about what matters to them. 

If you have a story to pitch about an issue in your community, send it to mylocalstory@cbc.ca

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