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.
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 email@example.com and we'll see if we can attend to those issues.”