In March, the Eco Team (comprised of employees from various Spokane County and City of Spokane departments) announced that Keep America Beautiful had awarded the group a $5,000 grant to combat cigarette litter on the County Courthouse Campus and in parts of downtown Spokane.
In April, six members of the Eco Team established a baseline by going to different sites around the campus and picking up cigarette/cigar litter. In one hour, they collected more than 2,500 butts.
Last week, the Eco Team unveiled the new disposal containers that were purchased with part of the grant money and the first one was installed near the STA bus stop in front of the Spokane County Public Works Building (1026 W. Broadway Ave.).
The others will be installed over the next two weeks. Grant money has also been spent on car ash trays and educational materials that will be distributed at community events. The Eco Team hopes to raise public awareness of cigarette disposal as both a form of toxic litter and as a water pollutant.
According to Spokane County Water Resource Specialist Casi Harvey, this grant is not only a big win for the Regional Solid Waste System, but also for Public Works, Stormwater and Water Resources.
“It's easy to forget that street litter, especially cigarette butts, can freely pass through storm drains and end up either at the water treatment plants or directly in the river, causing major water pollution issues. We’re excited to be a project that includes multiple county and city departments working together to help clean up our streets and waterways, and to affect positive change in our community,” Harvey said.
The Eco-Team is one of 42 organizations nationwide to receive grant funding through the 2018 Cigarette Litter Prevention Program. The 2017 Cigarette Litter Prevention Program grant funding totaled $295,000. The Cigarette Litter Prevention Program, now in its 16th year, is the nation’s largest program aimed at reducing cigarette litter. The program has helped reduce cigarette litter in the communities in which it has been implemented by an average of 50 percent.
Since its establishment over 16 years ago, Keep America Beautiful has distributed over $3 million in grant funding to support local implementation of the program in more than 1,700 communities nationwide. The Cigarette Litter Prevention Program is supported by funding from Philip Morris USA, an Altria company; RAI Services Company; and the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co.