A Big Butt Problem

If you’re of a certain age, you will most likely remember the television ads of the 1970s that showed the Native American crying over the trash left in what was a pristine setting.

A child of the 60s and 70s, I was taught young to try to conserve energy by turning off all of the lights in the house when I wasn’t in a room and not to litter.

That’s why it is so maddening to walk down our road with the dogs taking in as much unspoiled nature as possible and see trash.

On a half mile stretch of our road yesterday, I picked up no less than a half dozen newly tossed cigarette butts and the remnants of a blown out balloon on a string.

The cigarette butts are no doubt left behind by guests of our new full-time neighbors (the one who ran over Abbi with their car) as they do not belong to the other neighbor at this end of the road, nor do they belong to my aunt, who despises this kind of trash as much as we do (although she is a smoker).

The balloon, which was lying in the middle of the road as if it fell out of the sky, most likely did. It was probably launched at a balloon release as a way to celebrate or remember someone.

While I agree it is beautiful and also symbolic to watch a balloon fly away until you can no longer see it, they have to come down someplace and that someplace is typically in nature, where birds or other wildlife will ingest this trash. Balloons are not biodegradable.

You might also wonder what the big deal is about a few cigarette butts lying around.

The truth is that cigarette butt filters are also not biodegradable; they take many years to decompose in the natural environment. In the meantime, once again, birds and other wildlife can ingest this waste.

If I let it go, the problem will no doubt grow. A half dozen in just a few days (these are regular visitors to the neighbor’s house), the next thing you know, it will start looking like a city street, with them everywhere.

When I told my husband I was going to pick up these things, he said, “then what will you do with them?”

I thought about posting the baggie of cigarette butts at the top of our road next to the mailboxes with a note that says, “Neighbors: Let’s keep our road clean and pristine. Please don’t litter.”

Is it too much to ask? What would you do?   

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22 Responses

  1. Mary says:

    What has happened? Are you ok?
    No entries since June 11 and its now July.

    • Kerri says:

      Hi, Mary, Everything is fine, thanks for being concerned. It has just been a really busy summer. I will return next week!

  2. Alexandra says:

    It makes me sad that people today think nothing of littering. I wish the Obamas made a point of recycling at the White House. It would be so easy to set an example for the country.

  3. Carol says:

    I am a smoker and NEVER throw cigarettes anywhere except the trash. I put them in my pants pockets when I go for walks (and sometimes find them in the washer if I forget to check my pockets) I hate to see butts on the street and on my property. They do not go away by themselves! I’d put a reminder up by the mailboxes, I think that’s a good idea. Can’t hurt.

    • Kerri says:

      Thanks, Carol. It’s good to hear when people such as yourself is aware of the fact that cigarette butts are indeed trash, just like any other litter. We’re in the hot dry season now and we’re still seeing them on the road.

  4. Vida says:

    Hi Kerri,

    Sometimes if you just start to pick up the trash, people see what you do and follow…. I would have never thought this was possible, to be honest, as I have little faith in my fellow humans. But when first bought our present house and land in Greece, we spent a month cleaning up the nearby beach that was chockfull of plastic bags and trash. After that we maintained our work each spring. After two years, we were happy and gratified to see our Greek neighbours clean the washed up trash in front of their house. The first time, WE cleaned up years of accumulated stuff on the beach in front of them. We never said anything, just got on with the work. I guess after a while they found it much nicer to live and sunbathe on a trash free beach. Now we all do a bit here and there and every summer we have a lovely beach that we all enjoy.

    Hope you are well.

    • Kerri says:

      Hi, vida, I hope you are well too! We’re having a very busy summer. Yes, leading by example is a great motivator for some. Good for you!

  5. Sheryl M says:

    Good luck getting them to stop. My experience with butt tossers is that they really don’t think of it as littering at all. I’m amazing at all the butts I see flung out of car windows. And it’s not just country folks: one time when living in the city, I saw a car pull up to stop at a traffic light after exiting the highway, the driver opened the car door, and emptied his overflowing ash tray right there on the side of the road. And from appearances, he wasn’t the first to do it.

  6. Deanna Lee says:

    If you remember the Burma Shave signs then you will enjoy reading this one and perhaps use it on your road. 🙂


  7. dagne goodwin says:

    I would take the high road on this and put up signs about fire danger for the cigarette butt issue it may help but know it may not. No matter what you do this type of thing will happen so resign yourself to keeping the area clean and when you meet people let them know what you are doing, maybe they will follow suit by your awesome positive example. Doing signs like you suggest will just bring a negative response and that is not what you want at all.

  8. Roberta Kelly says:

    It is a fire hazard!!!! As well as hazardous to the wildlife….. I used to smoke and I kept a covered container in the car to keep cig butts until they were safe to put in the trash….. as the car was the main place I smoked….

    • Kerri says:

      Good for you, Roberta. I’m glad you did that and I’m glad for your health and your kids’ health, that you no longer smoke. 🙂

  9. Sue Moak says:

    I am always surprised when I see news articles about balloon releases. I can’t believe anyone still does them and yet I see schools and other organizations that should know better doing them. It is quite a sight seeing a bunch go off into the sky but still, it’s just litter when you get down to it.
    Cigarette litter makes me crazy. We live in a place where fire is a real danger and I always find it hard to believe someone is so ignorant to toss a cigarette out. Even when I am driving behind a smoker and they have their hand out the window it makes me mad. Keep your own smoke, don’t hold it out there to be pulled into my vehicle, or flick your ash on the dead grass median. And as you say, those filters never go away. I found one by my gate last year and I could not believe it with the drought we have been in here. There was ash by it so it had been thrown out while still burning.
    I will never understand why people go to a beautiful place and trash it.

    • Kerri says:

      I don’t think people even appreciate what we have here, Sue. That’s the only thing I can think of. When we were building the studio and the garage, I had to tell the foremen on both of the crews that we didn’t want cigarette butts tossed onto the property. You would not believe the trash left here. It’s one thing when people move here from the city, as we did, to get back to nature. It’s quite another when they simply treat it with the amount of respect they had in said city.

  10. Carolyn says:

    Coming from a smoker myself, who happens to also feel strongly that littering is wrong, harmful to the environment, and rude,I would leave a nice note at the boxes, and ask that they please ask their friends to refrain from tossing them, at least on your private road. You can list a few reasons why it’s so harmful to the nature and wildlife that you all enjoy by living there.

  11. These people are just tossing cigarettes into the road as they drive by? First of all, that’s a fire hazard, so I would be very concerned about that issue. I’m not sure what I would do. Maybe find a way to mention this to the neighbors and say you are concerned it could start a fire that would endanger everyone in the area. I don’t see this as any different than any other kind of littering. You should be responsible enough to clean up your own garbage, not just toss it wherever you are. I’m sorry you are dealing with such rude and thoughtless people.

    • Kerri says:

      That’s a good point now that it’s turned hot, Brette. We’ve had a very wet spring, but things will dry out very quickly now.