The Long Beach Environmental Alliance (LBEA) began with a cigarette butt clean-up in downtown Long Beach.
The focus has been on collecting discarded cigarettes, a ubiquitous element of refuse that litters streets and ultimately washes out into the ocean.
“All of the cigarette butts are so easy to miss, if you’re driving on the street or walking too fast. If you stop and look closely, they’re there, on the sidewalks, in the gutters and all around our public bus stops,” John Kindred, co-founder of LBEA, said.
Cigarettes pose a huge detriment to both local and global marine life. According to the FDA, cigarettes contain as many as 93 potentially harmful constituents that are either carcinogens, respiratory toxicants, cardiovascular toxicants, reproductive or developmental toxicants, or addictive. In 2018, the Ocean Conservancy group recovered 2,412,151 cigarette butts as part of their International Coastal Cleanup effort. 842,837 of those were collected on American shores.
A study paid for by the University of California Tobacco Related Disease Research Program found that “leachate from cigarette butts is acutely toxic to representative marine and freshwater fish species” through a number of controlled tests.
“All of that gets in the food we eat,” Kindred said.
Kindred started the Long Beach Environmental Alliance in 2017 with co-founder Sokha Ny. Their mission statement reads, “Working together for local solutions to environmental issues through action, passion, and advocacy in the city of Long Beach.”
A cigarette but collection planned this coming Saturday, March 28, was canceled after "Safer At Home" restrictions prompted by the coronavirus pandemic was put into place. When collected, cigarette butts are sent to TerraCycle, a waste recycling organization. The residual tobacco from the refuse is used to make compost, while the non-biodegradable plastic filters in cigarettes are repurposed into construction pallets and other industrial products.
Before the ban on gatherings, the Long Beach Environmental Alliance conducted a beach clean-up event every fourth Sunday at Alamitos Beach. Kindred said cleanups are a great opportunity for students to log service hours.
“I tell the students that there is no greater way to see the impact we make on our environment than volunteering,” Kindred said.
LBEA will be attending a variety of Earth Month events at Cal State Long Beach in April. Events are posted to the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LBEnvironmentalAlliance.