Duluth gets tough on buttsby Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
Duluth was one of the first cities to institute a smoking ban. And that pushed a lot of people onto the streets.
Now downtown Duluth has a new campaign -- against cigarette butts.
Duluth, Minn. — The Greater Downtown Council is putting up signs, adding trash cans, and even offering free portable ashtrays. It's all about getting people to stop flicking their cigarette butts on the sidewalk.
On the first morning of the campaign, the downtown "Clean and Safe" team was out in force, sporting their neon green polo shirts. In a two-block stretch of First Street, their usual street clean-up concentrated on one thing only: cigarette butts.
Jim Janousek is operations manager for the team.
"For about a year and a half we've been picking up litter in the downtown waterfront district," he says. "And as litter disappeared, you know, cups and papers and stuff, the cigarette butt issue became more visible. It replenishes itself every day."
In just one hour, working just those two blocks, they collected 1,202 cigarette butts. Plus 60 matches and eight cigarette wrappers.
The count didn't look like much fun.
Duluth's downtown is enrolled in a national pilot project to find out if intensive public education can keep the streets cleaner.
Janousek's Clean and Safe teams will be putting up posters. They'll also be setting up lots of those funny-looking things where people can drop their butts down a shute into a closed basin.
"Ash urns" Janousek says. "It doesn't seem real good to me, but that's what industry uses. We intend to put more of those in strategic areas. That's why we're doing a survey address by address to see where the problems are in this two-block area.
That's right, they are counting how many butts they find outside different buildings.
Beverly Haggy thinks it's a good idea. She lives above Sammy's Pizza, and at least twice a day she enjoys a smoke on the street with friends. They perch on a concrete wall on the edge of the sidewalk.
"I enjoy the fresh air," she says. Then she puts the butt in the trashcan. "I'm a good girl," she laughs.
But she says a lot of people just strolling by flick their butts on the street. She says some of them hang out at Life House, a drop-in center for teens, just down the block.
Adam Gellatly lives in the teen transitional housing upstairs.
"I would appreciate it if people would stop throwing them on the ground, because it doesn't make any sense," he says. "The cans are there for a reason, so use them. I put the cherry out on cigarettes, make sure it's out, put it in trash can."
It's hard to find anyone here who'll admit they throw their butts on the street. And most people seem to think the campaign has a chance.
Neil Glazman owns the European Bakery across the street from Life House.
"I am tired of picking up cigarette butts," Glazman says. He says it's a daily task outside his store. He says he's ready to help out with the campaign.
"Considering that most people in Duluth are Minnesota nice, I think they don't realize even that they're doing it," he says. "And so I think education might help."
The campaign goes further than education and ash urns. The city will have a thousand pocket ashtrays to give out for free. They come in a variety of chic styles. Supposedly Europeans use them all the time, but they'll be new in Duluth.
In two months the city will hold another count, to find out if the campaign makes any difference.
- All Things Considered, 07/13/2006, 5:23 p.m.