Man makes it his mission to clean up 1 million cigarette butts

Cigarette butts on the beach.
(Image credit: iStock)

Jason Alexander is doing his part to help the planet, one cigarette butt at a time.

Alexander, who lives near the coast of Suffolk in England, decided in 2015 that he wanted to photograph at least 100 sunrises over the year. He kept having to move trash while taking photos so as to not ruin his shots, and realized just how much garbage there is on beaches, walkways, and parking lots. "As a society, we've become blind to a lot of the litter and plastic that we produce, in particular cigarette butts," he told The Washington Post. "Many people that I've spoken to, smokers and nonsmokers, have no idea that there's plastic in cigarette butts. And many of them ... didn't even consider cigarette butts as litter."

He spent six days this summer walking 60 miles and cleaning up 12 beaches, and he realized he was picking up a lot of cigarette butts. Alexander started doing some research, and he was astonished to find that an estimated 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are tossed out every year around the world, and the toxins can get into the water and ground. To raise awareness of the problem, Alexander set a goal to pick up one million cigarette butts, and he takes photos of the piles he collects. One day, he scooped up 1,789 cigarette butts from a parking lot, and another time more than 3,000 from a walkway. It's a disgusting job, he told the Post, but it needs to be done so people can understand the scope of the situation. "A million cigarette butts could just be the beginning," he said.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.