The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

In search of old butts

PrintRecycling pioneer TerraCycle invited City College to take part in “the world’s first recycling program for cigarette waste,” but according to City College Vice President of Administrative Services Bob Martinelli, campus participation isn’t feasible at this time.

“[City College does not] have the staff to go out and be picking [cigarettes] up off the ground,” said Martinelli. “We blow them and pick them up en masse along with other trash…and throw them in the trash receptacle.”

Founded in 2002, TerraCycle has built a profitable business out of converting previously on recyclable or hard-to-recycle waste into desirable consumer goods, launching the Cigarette Waste Brigade together with Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company in November 2012.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re sandy, dirty, wet— we just want your butts,” said Albe Zakes, Terra-Cycle global vice president of communication. “For every pound collected, we’ll donate a dollar to Keep America Beautiful.”

According to TerraCycle’s website, the waste collected through the brigade is recycled “into a variety of industrial products, such as plastic pallets,” re-working any remaining tobacco into tobacco composting.

“If we want to be taken seriously as people who can recycle anything, it is important to tackle some of these big issues like cigarette butts…to have an impact on planetary health and on changing people’s behavior and habits,” Zakes said.

However, while there is some interest in the Cigarette Waste Brigade from students on campus, Ge Mua is concerned about the recycling process itself.

“Emissions?” said Mua. “If reprocessing adds to carbon dioxide, is it really benefitting the environment?”
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But according to the TerraCycle website, the recycling technology has a smaller environmental impact than traditional recycled plastics.

Lynn Tobin, 25, art major, said the brigade is worth considering but doesn’t think such a program will change student habits.

“I always put out my cigarettes in ashtrays,” said Tobin. “Someone who doesn’t care still won’t care and won’t change their mind.”

Currently, in addition to disposing of those littered on the ground, campus operations staff empties discarded butts from campus cigarette receptacles into plastic bags and throws them in the garbage.

Although at this time City College is unable to participate, according to Terracycle’s website any person over the age of 13-years with a U.S. address and phone number can go to to sign up for their Cigarette Waste Brigade, print prepaid shipping labels, and send in collected waste.

Furthermore, if a student group wanted to join the cause, according to City College Operations Director Greg Hayman, the butts on campus are all theirs.

“That’s certainly appropriate,” Hayman said. “Since we’re already making that effort, we could provide those [butts] to whatever student organization that was leading this.”

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