City ‘pleasantly surprised’ with uptake in cigarette waste recycling program

One of the 20 cigarette waste disposal units installed in downtown Kingston by the City of Kingston on Tuesday, Apr. 2, 2019. Submitted photo.

In early April of this year, the City of Kingston installed 20 new cigarette waste receptacles in the city’s downtown core.

Although similar in appearance to ordinary cigarette disposal units, the receptacles are designed by TerraNova, and the waste collected in them is sent back to the company for recycling, diverting all the waste from landfills. The City, in partnership with the Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Area (BIA), installed the receptacles strategically, particularly near bus stops and other high-traffic areas of the downtown area.

And while the first few weeks were slow in terms of people actually using the units to dispose of cigarette butts and other associated waste, once citizens began to use them more regularly, there was a noticeable increase in their popularity, according to Troy Stubinski, Public Works operations manager for the City of Kingston.

“When we started to roll it out, it was a slow uptake, but now we seem to be seeing success,” Stubinski said, noting that the cleaning crews that tend to the downtown streets have noticed less cigarette waste on sidewalks and along the curb in places that used to be littered with butts.

“Initially, we started with a weekly collection of all the containers and we’ve had to increase that to three times a week that we’re having to collect them, just because of the increase that we’re seeing. So that’s all good news!”

Another of the 20 cigarette waste disposal units installed by the City of Kingston as part of their cigarette waste recycling program. Submitted photo.

Stubinski said that, although they’ve had to relocate some of the units to more favourable locations, that’s all part of ironing out the wrinkles of a new program. Additionally, the City is looking into whether to stay with the units that are currently being used or change them out for different receptacles, simply because water gets into the units during rainfall. Otherwise, the program has been quite successful, particularly for it being the first few months of the program, Stubinski explained.

As of yet, none of the waste has actually been sent back to Terracycle for recycling, so Stubinski wasn’t able to say how much waste has been collected in terms of weight. However, the City has quite a sizable amount of the waste that is currently being dried out in order to send it, and Stubinski said they intend to send their first shipment of waste away for recycling this fall.

“We have to dry them out before we send them, and that takes a bit of time,” he said, noting that the drying time is another reason his team is looking into whether or not to change the receptacles out for ones that may be less impacted by rain.

“But we certainly have been pleasantly surprised to see how it’s going.”

Graphic via Terracycle.

While the City has run different programs for cigarette waste in the past – some readers will recall when City garbage cans had cigarette disposal units mounted to the side of them – Stubinski said the new program is working out much better than those that came before it.

“With the ones attached to garbage cans back in the day, a lot of them were getting stolen, and we had problems with that and it wasn’t as successful,” he said. “I think with this program, the communication we did and partnering with the Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Area (BIA) made it a lot better.”

Indeed, the program has attracted enough positive response that the City recently partnered with St. Lawrence College to install four of the receptacles around the college, and the City is currently in discussion with Kingston Health Sciences Centre about having units installed around two of their facilities.

And with the winter bringing less foot traffic to the downtown core, Stubinski said Public Works will use that time to rehash the details of the program, looking into new/better locations, and whether or not to opt for a more water-resistant disposal unit.

“The Downtown Kingston BIA have heard from their members that they’ve been happy with the program,” Stubinski said.

“Especially with this being the first year of the program, I’d say it’s going well.”

For more information on the costs associated with the program, read our first article on the program here. For more information on how Terracycle’s cigarette waste recycling program works, click here.

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