Putting grody old butts in buckets in Arcata

Maureen McGarry
Special to the Union

ARCATA – A disheveled crew of cigarette smokers and dogs were hanging out in front of Don’s Donuts in Arcata and the adjacent empty storefront on a Tuesday morning in August.

“Hey, man. You just get into town?” asked one young man between puffs.

“Yeah, I’m lookin’ for work,” the other young man replied.

“You here to do scissors?”

“No,” he said. “I have a truck and I was thinkin’ of runnin’ water.”

A large delivery truck pulled up in front of the scene and started unloading merchandise. The delivery workers started discussing how students would be returning and that they had better increase their amounts.

And so the season has begun. While overhearing this conversation, an Adopt-a- Block volunteer was picking up trash and cigarette butts all around them. In one morning along this block, the volunteer picked up approximately 100 butts along the sticky sidewalk that was also strewn with bottle caps, gum wrappers, empty bottles and other food-related trash.

Through the Adopt-a-Block program of the North Coast Environmental Center (NEC) and Humboldt Baykeeper, the volunteer shares that stretch of sidewalk with another volunteer throughout the week. Between the alley on H Street up to the Plaza (which includes Don’s Donuts and The Jam), they have each picked up 200 cigarettes in one morning. When The Jam has live music, the following morning is a gold mine of discarded filters.

Between HSU students returning to town and trimming season getting into full swing, Adopt-a-Block volunteers are starting to fill up their collection containers more quickly. Thousands of cigarette butts have been collected by volunteers throughout Arcata over the summer, and more volunteers are needed. The butts are being saved and data is being collected so that policymakers can have a better idea about how critical the problem is in Arcata.

Although this activity may seem like an exercise in futility and frustration, the reality is that the local creeks and the bay have been spared those potential pollutants from the infusion of toxic chemicals and nonbiodegradable plastic cigarette filters that impact the aquatic life in our delicate ecosystem.

RSVP and NEC/Baykeeper are looking for more local residents to step up and clean up the town. Most volunteers have their own system worked out for collecting the butts. A bucket and grabbers are essential. Gloves are highly recommended. A lidded container for the butts is available at the Volunteer Center of the Redwoods/RSVP office in the Hunt Building at 839 Ninth St. in Arcata. For more information about how to get involved, contact [email protected].


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