Help Wasaga Beach be Cigarette Butt Free!

Georgian Bay Forever is helping spread the message about getting beaches BUTT FREE. The Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation, (aka The Coastal Centre) has developed and executed an awareness program around the many ecological and recreational threats posed by cigarette butt litter. It's been so successful, that the program is expanding to Wasaga Provincial Beach Area 5 with staff help from the Environment Network and support from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.
Cigarette butts are the most commonly littered item on our beaches. In Southwestern Ontario, littered cigarette butts get carried in the stormwater and end up in the Great Lakes. When buried on the beach, they can stay in the sand for decades and may eventually wash into the lake.

A cigarette butt is a used filter. Filters are designed to remove toxins from tobacco while the cigarette is smoked, so each butt can contain up to 165 chemicals. Sixty of these are known carcinogens such as arsenic, formaldehyde, chromium and lead. Research has shown that these chemicals will leach into the surrounding environment, particularly when wet - which is quite likely at the beach! Nicotine, a known insecticide, has been shown to have lethal effects on aquatic life.

Here is a little information on the program and what you can do:

Butt Free Beach is a public education campaign to see if cigarette butt litter can be reduced through education and by providing ways for smokers to responsibly dispose of their cigarette butts. The focus will be on Wasaga Beach Area 5.

According to Jenni Kaija, Assistant Ecologist at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry:

    "I think most people are attracted to the recreational and relaxation opportunities beaches provide. People spend thousands of dollars and travel all around the world to vacation on sandy beaches."

Beach Pail

Wasaga Beach is the largest longest freshwater beach in the world with 14 km of sandy shore. It's special Coastal dunes and vegetation provide habitat for many species of plants and animals. We need to be careful where we are treading, and respect the ecology. One way to do that, is to dispose of cigarette butts properly; and get involved in helping educate others to do the same.

Data from the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up program shows cigarette related litter to be 45% of all litter items removed from the Lake Huron shoreline in2014. Park staff will attest to the local problem and some shoreline residents claim the problem, particularly after long weekends, is “disgusting.” Local park users and gate fees help to pay for the cost of Park staff hired to maintain beach cleanliness at Wasaga Beach. (To access the Wasaga Beach Provincial Park management plans, and comment until February 21, 2017, please visit this notice.)

Cigarette butts have been recovered from the stomachs of wildlife such as gulls and fish. Butts buried in the sand at the beach could be ingested by young children playing in the sand. Freshly tossed butts could burn bare feet should someone happen to step on the fresh embers.

Sources:
  • 98% of the information on cigratte butt litter and affects comes from Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation. For more information go to Butt Free Beach on their site.

  • For more information on beaches, ecologoy and stressors, go to Georgian Bay Forever's interview with Jenni Kaija, Assistant Ecologist at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
  • Wasaga Beach Area 5: For more maps of Wasaga Beaches, visit here.

    The Coastal Centre: For more info on Butt Free visit here.

    Reasons to be BUTT FREE

    1. Cigarette butts are the most commonly littered item on our beaches

    • In fact, they are the most littered item on the planet; it is estimated that 1 in 3 cigarettes end up as litter
    • Locally, data from the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up (2008 – 2012) organized for Lake Huron beaches removed more cigarette butts than all other litter combined

    2. Cigarette butts are toxic

    • Cigarette filters are designed to filter toxins
    • Discarded cigarette butts can contain up to 165 chemicals

    3. Cigarette butts should never be buried in the sand at the beach

    • Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate, a plastic that is slow to degrade
    • Cigarette butts can take up 10 - 15 years to break down; they take the longest when discarded into a hot, dry area such as a beach
    • Cigarette butts can accumulate in the sand at a beach and represent a serious health concern for families with young children that play in the sand.

    4. Littered cigarette butts cause water pollution

    • Discarded cigarette butts are carried in storm sewers and streams that lead directly to the lake environment
    • Cigarette butts have been shown to leach out chemicals into the surrounding environment, especially when littered into aquatic environments
    • Cigarette butts present significant health risks to aquatic wildlife. Wildlife may choke on cigarette butts or become poisoned.

    5. Cigarette butts as litter are harmful to society and the environment.

    • There are dangers to exposure to second-hand smoke outlined in this document this document by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. Children mimic adult behaviour. Cigarette butt ingestion can poison a child and require hospitalization in extreme cases (youth <2yrs old are most likely to ingest cigarette butts).
    • Beach quality (sand and water) can be negatively impacted by the accumulation of cigarette butts which could, in turn, impact tourism and the local economy
    • Beaches, like Wasaga Beach, are important tourist attractions. Local tax payers cover the costs of beach maintenance. Removing beach litter, such as cigarette butts from the sand, can be costly and time consuming.

    You’ve already started!

    1. Educate yourself and others on the impacts of cigarette butts on our beaches

    • Refer them to any of these websites: The Coastal Centre, Butt Free Beach or Georgian Bay Forever.

    • Learn more about beach ecology and what you can do to protect it. Start with Georgian Bay Forever's Interview with Jenni Kaija, Assistant Ecologist at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.

    2. This summer, look for signs and information posted at Wasaga beach Area 5

    • Wasaga Beach 5 will have a large interpretive sign explaining the impacts of cigarette butt pollution
    • Custom Print ashtrays will be available at the outdoor literature box. If you smoke, use the ashtrays and dispose of appropriately.
    • Look for catchy speech bubble signs that say "“I am a beach, not an ashtray! Please don’t bury your butts in me.”

    3. Look for volunteer opportunities to help clean the beach, or take the initiative on your own..and pick up litter that you see

    Sources:
  • 98% of the information on cigratte butt litter and affects comes from Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation. For more information go to Butt Free Beach on their site.

  • For more information on beaches, ecologoy and stressors, go to Georgian Bay Forever's interview with Jenni Kaija, Assistant Ecologist at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.