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No 'butts' about it: Neptune Beach has new place for cigarette trash

NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – It's a mission to clean up the beaches one cigarette butt at a time.

Beaches Go Green has teamed up with Keep America Beautiful to install 65 cigarette butt collection canisters across Neptune and Atlantic beaches.

"Cigarette butts aren't made of just paper," said Anne-Marie Moquin, the founder of Beaches Go Green. "They have cellulose acetate in them, which is a form of plastic and so they can take up to five years or longer to break down."

Cigarette butts, Beaches Go Green said, are the most frequently littered item in the United States.

"Every time you add one additional canister, you cut down on cigarette butt litter by about 9 percent. So we're hoping that that happens here," Moquin said. "We recognize it may take some time for people to change their habits, but we're really optimistic about it."

Beaches Go Green hosted a beach cleanup on Friday. Almost 100 volunteers helped clean the beaches and streets of Neptune and Atlantic Beaches. 

“Today, we found tons and tons of cigarette butts,” said Tony Pooley, Volunteer and Environmental Consultant. “People really don’t understand that cigarette butts have plastic in them. They do not readily decompose like people probably think they do.”

Clean-up organizers said they collected around 13,000 cigarette butts, which will now be recycled. The group who collected the most picked up more than 1,500 cigarettes. 

A prize is yet to be given to the person who collected the most cigarette butts, but attendees Tony Pooley and his friends Ella and Avery collected about 90.

“Today we found tons and tons of cigarette butts. People really don’t understand that cigarette butts have plastic in them. They do not readily decompose like people probably think they do,” said Pooley.

The organizers of Beaches Go Green, Taryn Montgomery, says at previous clean-ups, volunteers have collected 13,000 cigarette butts in just two hours spanning only a half mile radius.

“It’s a common misconception that cigarette butts specifically are just paper and they’ll just disintegrate but unfortunately a lot of them have plastics and harmful chemicals in them so it ends up doing a lot more damage than people think,” said Montgomery.

The nonprofit is doing more than just picking up any cigarette butts. They picked up everything from plastic bags to straws to even batteries.