Volunteers cleaning up discarded cigarette butts on city highway ramps picked up more than one for every undergraduate Ohio State student at all university regional campuses.
However, volunteers for the annual cleanup collected roughly 68.9 percent fewer butts than in 2013: 52,947 butts compared to the previous year’s roughly 170,000.
“I’m sure the pouring rain had a big effect on the collection,” said Sherri Palmer, manager at Keep Columbus Beautiful, a city program to keep the area clean, in a Monday email.
More than 400 volunteers spent part of Saturday cleaning up some Columbus highway ramps as part of the sixth annual KickButtColumbus event, focusing on cigarette butt cleanup, recycling and litter awareness.
“Cigarette litter is the No. 1 most littered item in the country,” Palmer said in a phone interview. “We’re trying to educate the population through this event each year more and more of the damages that you are littering and that you need to be more responsible when you smoke.”
KickButtColumbus focused cleanup efforts on the major highways that surround the city’s core, Palmer said. Volunteer participants cleaned up interchange locations along Interstates 70, 71, 270 and 670 and State Routes 104 and 315, as well as Wolfe Park, the starting point for the entire event.
KickButtColumbus is a part of Keep Columbus Beautiful and Keep Ohio Beautiful, government initiatives designed to encourage community cleanups to help keep the city of Columbus and state of Ohio clean, according to the city of Columbus website.
The 52,947 butts collected were a figure “considerably lower” than the roughly 170,000 record-high total in 2013, Palmer said in an email. The event has been held for the past six years and is sponsored by donations.
OSU began an enforced campus-wide tobacco ban Jan. 1 on all tobacco products including cigarettes, tobacco chew, snuff, e-cigarettes and snus, which is a “spitless,” moist powder tobacco pouch, according to the American Cancer Society. Tobacco ban violations are handled by the Office of Human Resources.
The OSU-based Alpha Rho chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity registered 45 of its members to volunteer at KickButtColumbus, the second consecutive year the fraternity has participated.
Eric Phommanirat, the team leader and community service chair for the chapter and a third-year in corporate finance, said his fraternity’s former community service chair recommended participating in the KickButtColumbus event again in Spring Semester 2014.
“Everyone should do community service,” Phommanirat said. “It doesn’t matter if it is the smallest thing or the biggest thing.”
Palmer said in a phone interview she was approached six years ago by local landscape architect Patrick Lynch and Keep Ohio Beautiful with a proposal to focus on highway clean up and cigarette litter.
“I pulled everything together by combining the highway cleanup with cigarette litter and using the landscapers by bringing their trucks out to the ramp sites to pick up the cigarette litter and other debris,” Palmer said. “We came up with a name and a logo, called KickButtColumbus, and we used traditionally this little angry man running with a cigarette, and the rest is history.”
She said the discarded cigarettes aren’t thrown away, but given to a “cigarette butt recycler.”
The first event was held in 2009 and involved 37 highway ramp sites around Columbus, Palmer said. This year, volunteers took on 43 ramp cleanup sites.
She said a primary goal of the event is to get the word out about littering.
“Most people know that littering is against the law and a lot of people see litter on the ground and will just go, ‘Oh, look at that mess, who is going to clean that up?’ and what we are trying to get the message across to people is that everybody’s responsibility is to pick up litter,” Palmer said. “It’s not the city, it’s not the university, it’s not other people. It’s you and me and everybody who needs to be more socially responsible.”