Butt Blitz 2021 wants one million cigarette butts in one month

·2 min read

Uxbridge resident Eilish Neilly has had a love for Planet Earth from a young age, and she is now heading a cigarette butt cleanup team here in our town.

This winter, Neilly found herself out of work, and when a volunteer opportunity with A Greener Future (an organization that works with local communities to promote environmental preservation) came up, she jumped at the chance to join the team.

“I love doing work with nonprofits and charities,” says Neilly, “and I was excited to get the role as a communications assistant with A Greener Future.”

Neilly studied environmental management at the University of Guelph and has always found volunteering for the environment to be a rewarding activity.

When the Butt Blitz project came up, Neilly signed on as a coordinator and based her team out of her hometown of Uxbridge.

A Greener Future started the Butt Blitz in 2015, and in its six years running, volunteers have picked up over a million cigarette butts. The collected butts are all sent to an organization called TerraCycle, where they can be properly recycled and used to create industrial items such as park benches and plastic pallets.

This year, the organization is taking on its biggest goal yet - to pick up one million butts in the month of April alone. Currently, it has reached a little over a third of its goal, and it’s looking for a strong finish to the month-long cleanup project.

Neilly has a team of about 11 volunteers, and so far they have already collected around 30,000 cigarette buts in Uxbridge alone. “Once you start looking for them, you really can’t ever unsee it,” says Neilly. “Although it sometimes feels like your impact is really small, I know that if a lot of people get on it we can make a difference.”

The project is usually run as a single day blitz along the shore of Lake Ontario, but as a result of the COVID pandemic, the project was modified this year to a month-long community-based project. With the success of this project, Neilly suspects it might continue in a similar fashion next year.

“There’s often a lot of shame that goes along with litter, but with cigarette butts it just seems to be perceived as more normal,” says Neilly. “I think that’s because people don't really know what’s in the butts. There is actually plastic inside the filter, people often think it's cotton or a natural fiber. With that plastic comes a lot of other issues over time when it’s left in our environment.”

To learn more about A Greener Future and to stay up to date on its projects, visit agreenerfuture.ca and follow on social media.

Justyne Edgell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Uxbridge Cosmos