Secondary Cigarette Scans
This month, our work with cigarette butts on fishing piers continues. One stipulation of the grant we received from Keep America Beautiful is follow-up litter scans at each location where cigarette receptacles were installed. The bins have been collecting butts at 15 sites in Florida since June. With help from a few of our partners, we have been busy counting cigarette butts both contained in the receptacles and littered on the ground at each pier.
Our Conservation Interns, Sarah, Genevieve, and I started with the local piers. Our mission became a bit harder than we expected when we discovered that the locks on the receptacles had all corroded. In the words of one of the pier managers we spoke with, “Nothing on God’s green Earth will last out here in the salt.” So, it was back to the shop to ask if we could borrow the bolt cutters and order some rubber-coated locks. I am happy to report that after several lessons from LMC’s Operations team, we have mastered a method for cutting off the old locks and putting the new ones in place, heavily greased and ready to take on some salt… we hope.
After that, we headed north for Panama City Beach. There, we conducted RPI refresher trainings at Russell-Fields Pier and MB Miller Pier. Staff at each location reviewed rescue and reporting steps and walked the piers with us to check on signage and speak with a few of the regular anglers. Staff from Gulf World even helped us pick up cigarette butts!
We then drove west to Fort Walton Beach to bring Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier on board for the first time. The staff at Gulfarium have been helping us with detailed reports of turtles they have treated from other piers in the area for some time. They were eager to implement the RPI on the pier in their own backyard. They are also excited to expand conservation efforts in collaboration with the pier staff who have been working hard to improve environmental stewardship with monofilament recycling bins, circle hook sales, cigarette receptacles, and increased educational signage. We shared our ideas for engaging anglers in projects, including one of my favorite initiatives – kids’ fishing programs designed to empower the next generation of responsible anglers.
On the nine Florida piers we have analyzed so far, we have counted 6,049 cigarette butts collected in the receptacles. That is 6,049 butts that are not in the ocean or on the beach; 6,049 individual decisions to dispose of waste responsibly for the protection of the marine environment. Several piers we visited asked if they could have additional receptacles. We are working to ship those out now. We are very proud of the success we are seeing so far and hope we can continue to prevent marine debris through our Responsible Pier Initiative.