As Northern Illinois University and other campuses across the state are now smoke free, smokers are reminded to properly dispose of smoking materials in their cars or in proper receptacles before arriving on campus.
According to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded piece of waste worldwide with an estimated 1.69 billion pounds of butts winding up as toxic trash each year.
A Cigwaste.org fact sheet says 120 billion cigarette butts are discarded into the environment, accounting for at least one third of all debris items found in U.S. beaches, rivers and streams. Cigarette butts leach organic chemicals and heavy metals into the environment that are toxic to fresh and salt-water fish and are poisonous when ingested by children and other living organisms.
“Cigarette butts do not decompose; they don’t go away,” says Lori Gummow, executive director of Rockford-based Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful. “Everyone shares a personal responsibility to help prevent litter in their community, and putting cigarette butts in proper receptacles is one way people can positively impact the environment.”
Local police have the authority to write up violations of local ordinance or state law at their discretion. In the City of DeKalb, the fine for littering can range from $35 to $500. In 2013, Illinois state lawmakers recognized the issue and passed a law designating cigarette butts as litter, meaning smokers can face up to a $1,500 fine for improperly disposing their butts.