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New recycling program puts butts to good use

Credit: ANGELA MCINNES

The bad news: your butt isn't biodegradable. The good news: Fanshawe will get it recycled, but only if you remember to place it in its designated container.


Angela McInnes | Interrobang | News | March 27th, 2017




 Fanshawe is one of the first schools in Southwestern Ontario to recycle cigarette butts from its campus.

Sustainability staff are hopeful that participating in a unique waste management program designed by a company called TerraCycle will decrease the devastating environ­mental impact of a bad habit. To get the most out of the program, stu­dents are urged to do their part and throw their butts in the designated containers, which custodial staff empty regularly into a larger bin that will be shipped to TerraCycle's Mississauga headquarters.

In the past year, Fanshawe ac­cumulated just over 77 pounds of butts.

TerraCycle specializes in break­ing down the compounds of materi­als that do not biodegrade or cannot be recycled by the public sector. They compost the natural tobacco content of cigarette butts, while recycling the plastic into materials used to build playgrounds and park benches. The program even pro­vides a reimbursement for its ship­ping fee in the form of a charitable donation. Fanshawe has chosen to redirect these funds back into its sustainability programming.

As sustainability co-ordinator Amanda Whittingham said, smok­ers need to think twice before flick­ing their butt onto the ground. There is a common misconception among smokers that cigarette butts are made of cotton. There is even less awareness of how harmful butts are to the environment.

“Billions of filters are left on the ground, and their toxins leech into the soil. They can poison the ground water or can clog up the sewage stations and sanitary water stations, and that goes straight into the river,” Whittingham said.

At that point, birds and fish con­sume the filters, and the neurotox­ins and hormone disruptors within. Often, this prevents males from properly displaying for mating. Over the process of bioaccumula­tion, humans are likely to eventual­ly ingest the same poisons.

While some schools are not able to afford the extra cost of supple­mentary sustainable programs, Fanshawe's status as one of the province's four largest colleges has allotted it the freedom to focus on progressing. According to Ivan Walker, senior manager at Facilities Operations and Sustainability, uti­lizing services like TerraCycle will help to set a precedent and pave the way for other colleges.

“Fanshawe is also very much about utilizing our resources wise­ly, not only recycling after you've used them but also before you've used them,” Walker said. “If you happen to see any energy wastages you can also drop a line at sustain­ability@fanshawec.ca and we'll see if we can attend to those issues.”
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