Friday, April 24, 2015

No BUTTS About It! Help Keep Our Freeways Clean!

Last year, Caltrans spent more than $63 million in taxpayer dollars to remove 193,000 cubic yards of litter, trash, and debris from our state highways. That’s enough to fill more than 12,000 garbage trucks, which end-to-end would stretch 62 miles long. District 7 (Los Angeles and Ventura counties) has spent $7.88 million picking up 33,485 cubic yards (2,092 garbage trucks) of litter this fiscal year.

To raise awareness about the litter problem, on April 23 District 7 Director Carrier Bowen, Chief Deputy Director Shirley Choate, numerous Caltrans executives, and CHP officers and explorer scouts donned protective gear, grabbed orange trash bags and pickers, and got to work picking up litter on I-710. Here’s Director Bowen cleaning up trash that motorists tossed out of their car windows, accompanied by Landscape Supervisor Robert Arias:

The most common type of litter? Cigarette butts. Every year in the U.S., 176,000,000 pounds of cigarette butts are littered. That’s a huge problem because cigarette butts are so small that it's almost impossible for our Maintenance forces to pick them up.

To combat the butt problem, three years ago Caltrans partnered with Keep California Beautiful and Cigarette Pollution Solutions to install Butt Only Boxes, or BOBs, at 10 rest stops throughout the state as a pilot program. And it’s working! We’ve collected more than one million butts that otherwise could have made their way to creeks, rivers, or the ocean. This year we're installing BOBs in 45 additional rest stops throughout the state. 

So what do you do with millions of cigarette butts? They don’t fully decompose when discarded legally in a landfill, but turns out, they CAN be turned into energy! We're using cigarette butts to create a needed resource by taking them from the BOBs to energy plants to be converted to energy. Caltrans anticipates collecting 4 to 5 million butts statewide, which is enough to fill about 18 55-gallon drums.

Converting butts to energy is a great example of innovative recycling. Know what would be even better? Having NO butts to recycle. Getting everyone who smokes to kick the habit. Keeping the filth cigarettes create out of our waterways and transportation system. We all know about the health benefits of not smoking — let’s keep the environmental benefits in mind, too. Working together, we CAN keep California beautiful!

Caltrans execs, CHP officers and explorer scouts with bags of litter they collected on April 23, 2015.