Civic groups, students, businesses and local government have been enthusiastic in supporting the Lebanon Rotary Club’s intention to sweep litter from the city’s streets.
“This is not just a Rotary program,” Jerry Erskine told members of the Boone County Healthy Coalition Wednesday, Feb. 1. “It’s our initiative, but there’s no way we can do it by ourselves.”
During a visit to Norway for a Rotary International convention, Erskine was impressed by the absence of litter on the streets. That inspired him to suggest the Lebanon Rotary Club begin a three-year program to combat litter and boost Lebanon’s image with “Lebanon: The Cleanest City in Indiana” project.
While the project is using cigarette butts as an example of the tons of litter that is swept into Lebanon’s storm sewers and disfigures the city’s appearance, it is not an anti-smoking campaign, Erskine said.
“If there are smokers who want to smoke, that’s fine,” Erskine said. “I don’t encourage it; this is an anti-litter effort.”
Nationwide, though, an estimated two billion pounds of cigarette butts are flicked aside annually. Matt Skenazy, writing in the July-August 2011 issue of Miller-McCune magazine, said that represents 7.5 trillion individual butts — and that recycling butts is problematic because cigarette filters trap arsenic, cadmium, acetone, mercury and lead, among other toxic chemicals. San Francisco, Skenazy wrote, spends about $7.5 million a year picking up butts, and pays for that with a 2009 tax of 20 cents per pack.
Greta Sanderson, Lebanon Reporter publisher, joined Erskine in outlining the “cleanest city” initiative’s progress over the past year.
Nearly all of the 1,500 “butt buckets” — covered ashtrays that fit in a vehicle’s cup holders — that were ordered have been given away at various locations throughout the city, Sanderson said.
Studies have found that attitude contributes to 85 percent of littering. “People think, ‘it’s just one more piece of trash,’” Sanderson said. The “cleanest city” project hopes to turn around that attitude through facts, involving people, and positive reinforcement.