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Programs | Butt Free Beach
Cigarette Butts are the Most Common Litter Item Found on Lake Huron Beaches

Cigarette butts may be small, but they have a big impact on water quality.  Cigarette butts are designed to filter toxins while smoking, so each cigarette butt may contain up to 165 toxic chemicals. For this reason, cigarette butts are considered toxic waste and pose a risk to wildlife and the shorelines they call home.



21, 963 cigarette butts have been successfully recycled by the Coastal Centre through the TerraCycle program.

Cigarette butts do not biodegrade. Butts are made of a plastic called cellulose acetate. UV rays will eventually break a butt into smaller pieces but the toxic material never disappears.


Cigarette butts cause water pollution. When a cigarette butt is buried at the beach it becomes a pocket of toxic waste in the sand. Chemicals in the filter will slowly leach out of the butt and into the surrounding environment. Leaching will happen much faster when the butt is soaked in water.


Cigarette butts can harm wildlife. Butts have been recovered from the stomachs of birds, fish and turtles. Even young children are at risk of ingesting a butt and can become extremely sick as a result.


Cigarette butts harm the economy. The costs of sweeping the street, parking lots, patios, as well as storm drain cleaning and beach maintenance has to be covered by someone. Usually this bill is passed to the local community.

Be a Beach Bum, Not a Beach Butt!
Our Solution:


Butt Free Beach!


Butt Free Beach is a program to see if cigarette butt litter can be reduced through public education and by providing a way for a smoker to responsibly dispose their butts.The Coastal Centre began this program in 2013, with new participating beaches taking part each year.


By using interpretive signs, posters, radio ads and beach signs we hope to improve awareness of the problem and encourage smokers to use the free beach ashtrays provided.

Lake Huron's Participating Butt Free Beaches (as of 2017):



















































How you can help make a difference:

  • All of us should be made aware of the negative health impacts of cigarette butts in our environment, especially at the beach when we are all walking barefoot, or building sand castles, or swimming.

  • Consider organizing a beach cleanup in your area through the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up

If you smoke:


  • Consider the environmental and social impacts of your habit.

  • Choose to minimize your ecological footprint and use a beach ash-tray.

  • Never toss your butts on the ground anywhere.

  • Always remember that butts on the ground will eventually wash into the lake.

  • The best way to reduce the environmental and social impacts of smoking is to QUIT.


If you own a business near the beach:


  • Contact the Coastal Centre for helpful resources and materials 

  • Consider the benefits of providing an ash-tray at the door of your business to capture the butts tossed onto the street as customers enter your establishment. This could be as simple as an empty coffee tin.


If you do not smoke:


  • Educate all the smokers you know about the impacts of cigarette butts to the environment

  • Sometimes this added knowledge will be enough to help a person quit.

  • Consider supporting smoke free outdoor spaces.

  • Wasaga Beach
  • Sauble Beach
  • Southampton Beach
  • Port Elgin Beach
  • Gobles Grove Beach
  • Station Beach 
  • Goderich Beach
  • Bayfield Beach
  • Grand Bend
  • Ipperwash Beach 

2016  Data & Results

This graph shows a tally of cigarette butts collected during our 2016 campaign year through our specialized cigarette butt recycling bins.

Our cigarette recycling bins are emptied regularly, with the help of partners and volunteers. The cigarette butts are then counted, recorded and sent to Terracycle to be recycled into industrial pallets.


Locations showing no data were still able to collect cigarette butts through our recycling bins, however the amounts were not recorded. 

Would your beach, park, or community like to participate or partner with us? We would like to hear from you!

The Butt Free Beach Program is funded through the Canada Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Quality and Ecosystem Health.
Additional Information on Cigarette Litter: 


Cigarette Butt Pollution Project

Cigarette butts harm wildlife. Tobacco and Cigarette butt consumption in humans and animals

California Bans Smoking on Beaches


David Suzuki Foundation


Butting out to raise the bottom line

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