Salem is first in state with cigarette butt recycling program

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Salem is the first municipality in the state to contract with a company that recycles cigarette butts.

In October, the city began working with New Jersey-based TerraCycle to set up the company’s slender rectangular receptacles in the downtown district and beyond. Each receptacle includes prominent lettering: “Recycle Your Butts Here.”

Eventually, up to 200 of the receptacles, which are about 18 inches tall and three inches wide, will be deployed throughout city, according to Dominick Pangallo, chief of staff to Mayor Kim Driscoll. Each container costs about $40, and the city is responsible for cleaning out the receptacles. TerraCycle then handles the waste for free.

According to the company’s website, the collected butts are melted down and made into shipping pallets and other plastic products. The tobacco and paper are composted.

“Cigarette waste is one of the most common forms of litter on our streets and sidewalks,” Driscoll said in a statement. “Having these receptacles available should provide us one more tool in our efforts to keep our city clean, while maintaining our commitment to being green and eliminating our overall trash output.”

Pangallo said that Driscoll learned about the recycling receptacles in an article about their use in New Orleans. Other cities that have introduced cigarette-butt recycling include Vancouver, Canada.

According to the Keep America Beautiful’s Guide to Cigarette Litter Prevention (, almost two-thirds of cigarette butts are discarded improperly. The website notes that most of these butts end up in storm drains, where they are likely to be carried into streams and rivers.

The cigarette filters are composed almost entirely of cellulose acetate, a type of plastic that takes a long time to degrade, according to the website.