Hold on to Your Butt

The Naked Truth: 8,950 butts from Ocean Beach and Baker Beach

Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, and they never fully degrade. Surfrider’s Hold on to Your Butt campaign gets butts off our streets and beaches to protect our oceans, waterways, and drinking water.

    Cigarette Butts are Plastic, Toxic Trash

  • An estimated 4.5 trillion cigarette butts—845,000 tons—are littered every year.
  • Cigarette filters (even American Spirit filters!) are made of 12,000 individual strands of a plastic called cellulose acetate. They never biodegrade, but break down into microplastics in our oceans and on land.
  • Filters are highly toxic – they trap nicotine, arsenic, formaldehyde, and heavy metals like lead and cadmium that leach into the water and soil, threatening water quality, marine and terrestrial life, and seafood safety.
  • The surgeon general proved that cigarette filters do not reduce harm to the smoker – though they trap toxic chemicals, they do not reduce the chance of death or disease from smoking. They are a tobacco industry marketing gimmick with dangerous environmental consequences.

Download our Cigarette Litter Fact Sheet for more information.

Cigarette Butt Littering and Mitigation Laws Are Unenforced

The City of San Francisco could enforce these existing laws to mitigate cigarette litter, but for reasons we don’t understand, they do not:

But, you can still download this sign to inform the public that these laws exist.

Get Your Butts to a Cleanup!

Join us at a beach cleanup or another of our cigarette butt cleanups. Check out our calendar for the latest information on our cleanup schedule. Drop off collected cigarette butts at any of our cleanups and we’ll recycle them for you. Want to host your own cigarette butt cleanup or report a butt “hotspot”? Email Shelly at hotyb@sf.surfrider.org.

Visit our blog to learn more about our work!
We’re collecting butts, tracking totals, and recycling them through Terracycle, where they are melted and reformed into plastic pellets that are used to make industrial products like railroad ties and shipping pallets.

Adopt an Ashcan

Your organization or business can adopt an ashcan for a tax-exempt donation. Ashcans dramatically reduce cigarette butt littering, and butts can be recycled through TerraCycle. We’ve installed them at Salesforce in the FiDi, SF State University, MTA headquarters, and other locations. By adopting an ashcan, you commit to maintaining it. Check out our info sheet and Adopt an Ashcan form for more information. Have questions? Read our FAQ.

Personal Ashtrays
Many times, smokers can’t find an ashcan or trash bin to toss their cigarettes. Surfrider San Francisco provides “personal ashtrays” where smokers can temporarily store butts until a trash can is found.

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Our Goals

Surfrider’s Hold On To Your Butt campaign works to:

  • Reduce cigarette litter and educate that cigarette butts are plastic and toxic
  • Advocate for better enforcement and implementation of littering/smoking laws
  • Tell big tobacco to take responsibility for the waste they produce and get their plastic out of our butts! by banning plastic filters and eliminating filters altogether or replacing them with biodegradable alternatives
  • Educate consumers about the impacts of tobacco litter on the environment

Contact Us

To get involved, or for more information, email Shelly Ericksen at hotyb@sf.surfrider.org.
Check us out on Instagram: @holdontoyourbutt