San Francisco Surfrider Foundation

Hold on to Your Butt

#1 in the Worst Way

Cigarette butts are the most littered item on our beaches and around the world. Every year 4.5 trillion butts—1.7 million pounds—pollute our Earth. In the San Francisco Bay Area alone, 3 billion butts are littered every year.

If you smoke, please stash your ash! Carry a reusable pocket ashtray, sold at Daiso or online.


Cigarette filters are made of the same plastic used in sunglasses—cellulose acetate. Like other plastics, they break up into microplastics that pollute our water and soil. Like other plastics, they can be recycled.


Cigarette filters trap nicotine, arsenic, formaldehyde, and heavy metals like lead and cadmium that leach into water and soil, threatening water quality, marine and terrestrial life, and seafood safety. Environmental Protection Agency test protocols proved that cigarette filters are toxic to aquatic life. Just one cigarette butt in one liter of water kills half the fish.


The Surgeon General proved that cigarette filters do not make a safer cigarette—they do not reduce the chance of death or disease from smoking. Filters are a tobacco industry marketing gimmick with dangerous environmental consequences.

Help Us Kick Butt!

What We Do

Surfrider’s Hold onto Your Butt works to eliminate cigarette butt litter by:

  • Partnering with local businesses and government to install buttcans throughout San Francisco
  • Educating smokers that cigarette butts are plastic, toxic, and do not make a healthier cigarette
  • Cleaning cigarette butts off beaches and streets and recycling butts through TerraCycle
  • Advocating for the removal of plastic cigarette filters and the creation of anti-litter policies

Read our report, Preventing Cigarette Litter in San Francisco to learn more about the problem and our recommendations for fixing it. And follow us on instagram and our blog.


Contact our Hold on to Your Butt (HOTYB) lead, Shelly Ericksen at with any questions.