Roncesvalles wages fight against cigarette butts

Residents in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood are frustrated in their fight to rid the street of cigarette butts.
Residents and merchants in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood are working to keep the street free of discarded cigarette butts. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)
Members of the Roncy Works group have provided painted and stenciled cans for smokers to discard their butts. (RoncyWorks)

Residents in Toronto's Roncesvalles neighbourhood are frustrated in their fight to rid the street of cigarette butts.

They've tried everything, from brightly painted tin cans to stickers on the city's garbage bins.

Dozens of cigarette butts often lie beneath a bench outside a pizzeria on Roncesvalles and owner Al Joeta say he tries to keep the area clean.

"It’s a problem," he told CBC News. "We try to clean it up as much as we can. We have the bar nearby here so lots of customers sit outside and they throw the butts."

There is a hole in city garbage bins for butts but it's almost too small to notice.

Smoker Jerry May says the hole is often jammed.

"When you try to put the cigarette inside, you can't," he said. "The hole is stuck. A lot of the smokers had no idea that there's a cigarette butt receptacle in the trash cans."

Stickers didn't stick

Veronica Feihl is a volunteer with Roncy Works, a group that placed stickers on the bins that say: "Get your butt in here."  

But the stickers disappeared, likely when city cleaners power-washed the bins.

Roncy Works is having better luck getting smokers to use a series of homemade painted tins filled with sand. Feihl says business owners have even offered to maintain them.

They would like to attach the tins to storefronts permanently.

A story posted on the Roncy Works website says the tins are making a difference.

"They seem so effective, that more are being made to fill requests made directly to our volunteer sweeps and to supply the west side of the street," the online post reads. "What’s more, other communities are now following suit."

Used butts recycled for money

As Roncy Works volunteer Sandy Drake explains, members of her group have even been able to turn the used butts into money. A recycling company turns the butts into plastic pallets.

"Once a week we pull them in, we pack them up, we send the three-pound minimum off to TerraCycle. They pay us a dollar a pound for it," she said. "So we are getting the butts off the street, they're becoming a useable product. And we're getting a little funding back to the BIA [business improvement area]."

With files from Jasmine Seputis