By Seth Daniel
Over the years, there’s been a shortage of just about everything in Bellingham Square, but there has never been a shortage of cigarette butts lining the brick pathways in and around City Hall.
Now, as one of the first orders of business in the re-shaping of the downtown business district, the City, The Neighborhood Developers (TND) and the Community Enhancement Team (CET) have banded together to purchase five Sidewalk Butt-lers to provide a receptacle for used cigarette butts and a way to recycle those butts into something useful.
In a gathering at the tip of the Square on Tuesday morning, the new Butt-lers were installed by their inventor, Mike Roylos, as many members of the various groups looked on.
“This is part of our efforts to improve the Square and Broadway,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “Our efforts involve things we want to do in the long-term and some things we can do right now. This is something we can do immediately. Many people will see this and see we are trying to do something here. We hope the people who frequent this Square will use them. This is step one in a long-term effort to improve the Square.”
As members of the CET like Mike Sandoval clipped around the little Square picking up cigarette butts and depositing them in their new home, TND’s Sharon Fosbury explained that the program will take things a step further by recycling all of the butts and creating no new trash.
“This is an extremely good option because it’s getting the butts off the sidewalk and taking the next step by recycling them,” she said. “It’s one thing to collect butts and throwing them away, but this is generating no new trash. It’s all being recycled.”
The cigarette butts are to be collected by the Department of Public Works and then stored at the City Yard. Once there are enough, the CET volunteers will ship the butts to a company called TerraCycle. The company separates the cigarette butts into several parts. On the whole, a cigarette butt is not recyclable. However, once the filter is removed, it is made out of plastic and can be melted down and recycled. The excess leftover tobacco is used for compost. Any remaining paper is also recycled. Over the long run, any money generated from selling the recycled materials is used for grant opportunities for community organizations around the country.
“It only costs us man hours and we’re volunteers,” said Fosbury.
Roylos invented the Sidewalk Butt-ler when he got tired of seeing and picking up cigarette butts outside his Maine restaurant every day. To solve the problem, he invented the little tubes that are locked at the bottom and instituted the recycling initiative as part of the plan too.
He told City officials that he believes it will make a difference, but it could take time.
The pilot program includes Butt-lers in front of Dr. Dental on Washington Avenue, in front of Bunker Hill Community College, at the Gazebo, in front of City Hall and at the Bellingham Square location.
The goal is to expand the program even further if the program finds enough success.