Communities Report Prolonged Success in Reducing Cigarette Butt Litter

by | Mar 5, 2014

STAMFORD, Conn. (March 5, 2014) — Keep America Beautiful (KAB) reports an average 48 percent reduction of cigarette litter in the communities implementing KAB’s Cigarette Litter Prevention Program (CLPP) during 2013. In 2013, the program’s 11th year, there were 200 grant-supported implementations across the country in a variety of settings including downtowns, roadways, beaches, parks, marinas, colleges/universities, tourist locations, and at special events.

Over the past eight years, the CLPP has consistently cut cigarette butt litter by half based on local measurements taken in the first four months to six months after a program implementation.  Survey results also demonstrated that as communities continue to monitor the program those reductions are sustained or even increased over time.  For example, more than 100 communities that launched programs in 2012 achieved an average reduction of 53 percent that year, and increased that reduction by an additional 12 percent when measured again in 2013.

“As Keep America Beautiful focuses on building and sustaining vibrant communities, it’s essential to reduce cigarette litter to lessen the environmental harm this common type of litter places on our landscapes and waterways,” said Jennifer Jehn, president and CEO of Keep America Beautiful. “Our 
Cigarette Litter Prevention Program is making a significant difference in communities where the program is being implemented because of public education in tandem with access to receptacles.”

Tobacco products, consisting mainly of cigarette butts, are the most littered item in America, representing nearly 38 percent of all items littered, according to “Litter in America,” KAB’s landmark 2009 study of litter and littering behavior.

“We realized significant reductions in cigarette litter at our CLPP program sites,” said Shannon Reiter, president of KAB state affiliate, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful.  “We leveraged the grants with both community match and Department of Environmental Protection Coastal Resource Management funding, implementing the program in 54 locations throughout the Lake Erie Coastal Zone.  In all, we achieved a 57 percent reduction in cigarette litter.”

In California, Keep America Beautiful affiliate I Love a Clean San Diego (ILACSD), focused its successful CLPP implementation on an area near the harbor on San Diego Bay. One busy intersection showed a reduction of over 70 percent.  “We partnered with the Surfrider Foundation and local businesses to establish ash can funding and maintenance agreements, as well as support for electronic billboard advertisements,” said Natalie Roberts, ILACSD’s director of community events.  “The scrolling ads included promotional messages to encourage proper disposal of cigarette butts and cigar tips.”

Research has shown that even self-reported “non-litterers” often don’t consider tossing cigarette butts on the ground to be “littering.”  Keep America Beautiful has found that cigarette butt litter occurs most often at transition points—areas where a person must stop smoking before proceeding into another area.  These include bus stops, entrances to stores and public buildings, and the sidewalk areas outside of bars and restaurants, among others.

To address cigarette butt litter, KAB’s Cigarette Litter Prevention Program advocates that communities integrate four proven approaches:

  • Encourage enforcement of litter laws, including cigarette litter;
  • Raise awareness about the issue using public service messages;
  • Place ash receptacles at transition points such as entrances to public buildings; and
  • Distribute pocket or portable ashtrays to adult smokers.

The “Guide to Cigarette Litter Prevention” provides information about starting and maintaining a Cigarette Litter Prevention Program in your community, and can be found online at  You can also view the new PSA on KAB’s YouTube channel.

The Cigarette Litter Prevention Program is supported by funding from Philip Morris USA, an Altria company, with additional support from RAI Services Company and the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company. 

About Keep America Beautiful
Keep America Beautiful is the nation’s leading nonprofit that brings people together to build and sustain vibrant communities. With a powerful national network of community-based affiliates and participating organizations, we work with millions of volunteers to take action in their communities. Keep America Beautiful offers solutions that create clean, beautiful public places, reduce waste and increase recycling, generate positive impact on local economies and inspire generations of environmental stewards. Through our programs and public-private partnerships, we engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community’s environment.