If residents of Coastal Georgia have their way, their beaches will never be the butt of jokes.
From the sand to the streets, a $15,000 grant will help volunteer groups get the word out that cigarette butts are not welcome on Tybee Island. The local effort is part of a three-month state initiative, dubbed “Georgia’s Coast is Not an Ashtray,” and the larger nonprofit Keep America Beautiful national program.
Tim Arnold, the founder of Tybee Clean Beach Volunteers, said his group has counted as many as 200,000 cigarette butts across local beaches in the past 18 months. When disposed of in water or discarded on land and blown into storm drains, cigarette filters not only litter the beach, but pose a threat to local animal, marine, and plant life.
The Georgia campaign is not necessarily a threat to smoking, as it is about litter. Until the end of summer, Georgia’s six coastal counties will be raising awareness about the dangers of cigarette butts, distributing ashtrays, and installing receptacles around high traffic areas including stoplights, along roadways, and throughout public spaces.
Each year, Keep America Beautiful awards Cigarette Litter Prevention Program grants to affiliates, local governments, business improvement districts, downtown associations, parks and recreation areas, and other organizations dedicated to eradicating litter and beautifying communities. Many of these anti-litter grants at the state level as well as funding opportunities from government agencies and foundations aimed at litter prevention, recycling, and environment are posted on GrantWatch.com.
Although smoking rates in the United States have declined, cigarettes remain the most frequently littered item in America. Cigarette butts make up 32 percent of all litter collected in the United States.
Keep America Beautiful grants are helping litter-prevention advocates combat cigarette trash in downtown Spokane, Wash., as well. The city’s Eco Team is one of 42 organizations nationwide to receive grant funding through the 2018 Cigarette Litter Prevention Program, the largest such effort in the nation aimed at reducing cigarette litter. Keep America Beautiful has distributed some $3 million in grant funding to support local implementation of the program in more than 1,700 communities nationwide.
Heather Schroeder, a program manager for the nonprofit Downtown Committee of Syracuse, said smokers forget that cigarette butts are not biodegradable. Her group conducted a survey as part of its application for the $5,000 Keep America Beautiful grant. The Downtown Committee will use the money it received to buy receptacles and to put up posters and run radio ads urging smokers to use them instead of flicking their cigarette butts on the ground.
Nonprofits, community-based groups, municipalities and concerned citizens frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants to provide environmentally friendly services including litter prevention initiatives can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at GrantWatch.com. Sign-up to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.