Volunteers remove 11 pounds of cigarette butts from downtown Fayetteville

Volunteers collect trash and cigarette butts along West Avenue Tuesday.

Photo: Brian Pugh

They’re small. They’re gross. They’re cigarette butts, and on Tuesday, about 180 volunteers removed thousands of them from the streets of downtown Fayetteville.

City of Fayetteville officials, NWA Tobacco & Drug Free Coalition members, along with volunteers from University of Arkansas’ Rock Camp collected more than 11 pounds of cigarette butts from Dickson Street, Block Avenue, and the Fayetteville square in an effort to make sure they stay out of local waterways.

About 180 volunteers participated in the clean up Tuesday

Photo: Kristina Jones

The UA’s R.O.C.K. Camp (Razorback Outreach for Community and Knowledge) program is an extended orientation for first year university students looking to get acclimated and involved in the Fayetteville community before starting classes in the fall. The students arrive about a week before the fall semester starts and go through a series of orientation activities while also volunteering with local organizations.

“It’s a cool program,” said Kristina Jones, Fayetteville Parks & Rec’s volunteer & community programs coordinator. “It kind of creates a foundation for stewardship for these students – a lot of them who’re in Fayetteville for the first time.

“Plus, a lot of them will be patrons of the entertainment district, and this helps make them aware of the impact the cigarette butts can have,” Jones said.

Volunteers met up at the Spring Street Parking garage, split into teams, and set out with bags separately designated for cigarette butts and other trash. The idea, she said, was to try and keep track of where the most butts were coming from.

Jones said the largest concentration of cigarette butts came from the Dickson Street area between University and Watson Avenue, and on Block Avenue near the square.

Volunteers place new stickers on a Dickson Street cigarette receptacle

Photo: Colin Massey

The large volume of butts would have been worse, she said, had a group of about 160 volunteers not conducted a similar clean up about a month ago.

“It definitely shows the need for this,” she said. “We could easily do this once per month.”

While they were out, the volunteers also placed new stickers on the cigarette receptacles in the district to try and make them stand out. The organizations involved in the clean up are also working with the the Northwest Arkansas Tobacco & Drug Free Coalition to look at other ideas to try to raise awareness about the problem, including installing interactive polling cigarette receptacles that have been successful to curb the problem in other communities.

“Ultimately, we just need a find a way to keep them cleaned up,” Jones said. “Cigarettes are one of the most overlooked kinds of litter because they’re so small, but they’re also one of the most harmful when it comes to aquatic life if they end up in our waterways.”

So, how many cigarette butts does it take to make up 11 pounds?

“A lot,” Jones said. “We bought a 10 gallon aquarium, and we were going to display them in it in the student union. They were overflowing out of it, so we may have to buy a bigger tank.”