A Jersey Shore community is undertaking an innovation solution to a problem that has long plagued beaches: cigarette butts.
Cape May County’s North Wildwood is partnering with TerraCycle, the world’s leader in the collection and repurposing of complex waste streams, to recycle the cigarette butts, which the company says it the world’s most littered item.
According to officials, North Wildwood will collect and ship the cigarette butts to TerraCycle, which will then process them into plastic pellets for use in a variety of recycled products — like shipping pallets, ashtrays, and park benches — while the remaining tobacco will enter a composter.
If not recycled, plastic cigarette filters will remain in the environment long after the paper and tobacco has decomposed, according to the company.
To encourage the proper disposal — and then easy collection — of cigarette butts, the municipality has installed receptacles at each of the city’s beach and boardwalk entrances.
The city decided to install the receptacles after smoking was prohibited on North Wildwood’s boardwalk and in-response to the statewide smoking ban recently implemented on New Jersey beaches.
The project was funded by a small grant from Sustainable Jersey, a nonprofit organization that provides tools, training and financial incentives to support community sustainability programs.
In 2017, Clean Ocean Action volunteers found 29,000 cigarette butts, 7,172 cigar tips, 1,900 empty cigarette packs, and 1,150 lighters on the state’s beaches.