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Alberta

“The Planet is not an Ashtray” – It’s Time to Stop Throwing Cigarette Butts on the Ground

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Raise your hand if you’ve ever witnessed someone flick their burnt out cigarette butt onto the ground while they’re standing outside the pub, or walking down the sidewalk. Or, if you’ve ever driven over a still-lit cigarette on the road after the driver in front of you chucked it out the window of their moving car. 

In a public setting, throwing a soda can or an empty coffee cup onto the ground is a hard no, often met with swift social backlash by surrounding witnesses. So why, then, is it considered socially acceptable to throw cigarette butts – literal chemical trash on fire – onto the ground?
While the act of discarding a cigarette butt onto the ground may seem insignificant in the moment, statistics show the staggering and destructive impact this decision has on the environment when made by millions of people every day. 

According to a National Geographic article released in August 2019, cigarettes are the top plastic polluters around the world. Globally, approximately 6.5 trillion cigarettes are purchased each year, and of those, “an estimated two-thirds of the trillions of filters used each year are tossed into the environment.” 

Cigarettes are not biodegradable. The breakdown that results from weathering and time spent in the elements leads to further environmental degradation, as thousands of microscopic plastic fibers and chemicals are released. The chemicals found in cigarette ash and filters, which include arsenic, lead and benzene, among others, are poisonous to the environment and its inhabitants.
In 2019, a study led by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) was published in the journal of Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety highlighting how cigarette butts significantly reduce plant growth. “We believe it is the chemical composition of the filter that is causing damage to the plants,” says co-author Dr. Bas Boots, “Most are made from cellulose acetate fibers, and added chemicals which make the plastic more flexible … may also be leaching out and adversely affecting the early stages of plant development.”  

In addition to inhibiting early plant growth, cigarette litter consistently ends up in waterways that lead to surrounding rivers, lakes, and the ocean. This contaminates the water with dangerous chemicals and plastics that poison marine life and other animals, who often mistake cigarette butts for food.
Not to mention, in regions experiencing hotter, dryer climates, cigarette butts can lead to wildfires when discarded before being properly extinguished. In June 2019, the Vancouver Island Fire Department responded to 7 fires in 7 days, all of which were caused by improperly discarded cigarette butts. 

The social norm that permits cigarette butts as an acceptable form of litter is far outdated. Cigarette litter should be held to the same standard as all other forms of chemical and plastic waste that negatively impact the environment, meaning the onus is on the user to ensure proper, safe disposal. 

Brain Garden is a family run business based in Vernon, British Columbia, on an international mission to eliminate cigarette litter and its detrimental environmental effects. 

Founded by ‘Head Gardener” Jack Elliman in 2012, Brain Garden manufactures eco-friendly, airtight Pocket Ashtrays for safe, on-the-go disposal of cigarette butts. When users drop their lit cigarettes into the Pocket Ashtray and snap it shut, the airtight seal extinguishes the butt and traps the smoke, successfully tackling 2 of the main reasons individuals litter in the first place – convenience and lingering smell.
The inspiration for the Pocket Ashtray originated in the transformational festival industry, where individuals are encouraged, if not required, to leave no trace. Though not as commonly as on a city sidewalk, even there, Elliman noticed, cigarette butts were ending up on the ground. It was there Elliman identified the need for a convenient, eco-conscious solution to keep cigarette butts from ending up in the environment.

From there, the environmentally friendly invention has expanded into the global market as a convenient, educational product that leads to less cigarette waste littering our towns, contaminating our waterways, harming our wildlife, and causing wildfires.
“It really comes down to education,” says Elliman, inventor of the Pocket Ashtray, “people forget that cigarette waste is toxic waste, and now with COVID, it’s a biohazard as well.” Since the launch of Brain Garden 8 years ago, more than 100,000 Pocket Ashtrays have been distributed to cities, fire departments, music festivals, cleanup groups and more worldwide. 

The story doesn’t end there, however. The Pocket Ashtray goes one step beyond simply keeping cigarette litter off the ground. Once the Pocket Ashtray becomes full, the contents can be mailed to TerraCycle using free shipping labels provided by Brain Garden, compliments of TerraCycle. From there, TerraCycle composts the remaining paper and tobacco and recycles the cellulose acetate. 

“We are about to hit 1000 total pounds of recycled cigarette litter with TerraCycle,” says Elliman. This one-ton milestone is a result of global participation in various Brain Garden cigarette litter campaigns, including “butt barrels” and “butt buckets” which function alongside the Pocket Ashtrays.
The funds generated from the recycling process with TerraCycle are then put towards the Brain Garden Wildfire Prevention and Education Campaign. This campaign focuses on reducing wildfire risk by providing free Pocket Ashtrays to the smokers, promoting safe and responsible cigarette disposal, and educating the public about the dangers of improperly discarded cigarette butts. 

It’s 2021. Time to respect the environment, be a good human and use an ashtray.

For more information on the Pocket Ashtray and how to join Jack Elliman and Brain Garden on their ongoing mission to protect the environment from the largest global plastic pollutant, visit https://braingarden.ca

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

Alberta

Province wants everyone in Alberta to get a third shot

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Expanding COVID-19 booster to all Albertans 18-plus

Expanded availability of third doses of COVID-19 vaccine will help Albertans increase their protection against COVID-19.

Starting Dec. 2, all Albertans aged 60 and older can book appointments for a booster dose of mRNA vaccine six months after receiving their second dose. First appointments will be available beginning Dec. 6.

All other Albertans aged 18-plus will be notified when the next age group is able to book appointments. Additional age groups will be announced as quickly as possible.

“I am pleased that we can offer booster doses to more Albertans. Millions of Albertans have rolled up their sleeves to have their best protection against COVID-19. While two doses continues to provide strong protection against severe outcomes, we will continue to push the federal government for supply to ensure all Albertans can receive their third doses to continue limiting COVID-19 infection and transmission.”

Jason Copping, Minister of Health

“With the winter season increasing transmission risks, and more Albertans approaching the six-month milestone since receiving their second dose, the evidence supports expanding booster doses to add an additional layer of protection. Vaccines continue to be our best protection against COVID-19, and I continue to encourage Albertans to book their first, second and third doses as soon as they are eligible.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health

Current evidence indicates that vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 infection appears to wane over time. While individual protection against severe outcomes remains strong after two doses for most people, there are still many in our communities who are completely unprotected, and third doses will help boost population protection and limit the spread of COVID-19.

Expansion of booster dose eligibility was informed by the advice of the Alberta Advisory Committee on Immunization.

Booking for booster doses

Effective Dec. 2, eligible individuals can book appointments for third doses online with participating pharmacies by using the Alberta vaccine booking system. Albertans can also call 811, participating pharmacies or participating physicians’ offices. The first appointments will be available starting Dec. 6.

Booster eligibility is based on birth date. Albertans who are 59 turning 60, and First Nation, Métis or Inuit individuals who are 17 turning 18, are asked to not book appointments before their birthday.

Albertans who were previously eligible for third doses continue to be able to book their appointments.

Albertans eligible for additional doses

Albertans eligible for additional doses now include:

Eligible at least six months after receiving their second dose:

  • Albertans aged 60-plus
  • First Nations, Métis and Inuit people aged 18-plus
  • Health-care workers providing direct patient care and who received their second dose less than eight weeks after their first dose
  • Individuals who received two doses of AstraZeneca or one dose of Janssen vaccine

Eligible at least five months after receiving their second dose:

  • Seniors living in congregate care

Eligible at least eight weeks after receiving their second dose:

  • Individuals with eligible immunocompromising conditions

Quick facts

  • To date, 378,507 Albertans have received a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 84.1 per cent of eligible Albertans 12 years of age and older have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine while 88.8 per cent have received at least one dose.
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Alberta

Cargill, union reach tentative deal that could avert strike at High River meat plant

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CALGARY — The union representing workers at the meat-packing plant that was the site of one of Canada’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks says it’s reached a tentative deal with Cargill Inc., just days before a looming strike deadline.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 401, which represents about 2,000 workers at the Cargill meat-packing plant in High River, Alta., said Wednesday it is recommending its members accept the latest contract offer from the company.

In a statement on its website, the union said the new contract offer, if ratified on Saturday, would be the best food processing contract in Canada.

“It is a dramatic improvement from the offer that union members saw last week and will significantly improve Cargill workers’ lives,” the statement said.

In an email, Cargill spokesman Daniel Sullivan said the company is offering a six-year collective agreement that includes retroactive pay, signing bonuses, a 21 per cent wage increase over the life of the contract and improved health benefits.

“We remain optimistic we can [ratify the] deal before the strike deadline and encourage employees to vote on this offer,” Sullivan said.

Cargill and the union have been at loggerheads for some time over issues related to wages as well as health and safety. Workers voted 98 per cent last week against Cargill’s previous offer, and the union had said workers would strike on Monday if a contract agreement couldn’t be reached.

In addition to a significant wage increase, the proposed deal being recommended now also offers workers a $1,000 signing bonus and a $1,000 “COVID-19 bonus,” the union said Wednesday. It also contains “significant contract provisions to facilitate a new culture of health, safety, dignity, and respect in the workplace.”

In May of 2020, Cargill’s High River plant was the site of a major workplace-related outbreak of COVID-19. More than 900 workers tested positive for the virus, and three deaths were linked to the outbreak.

The Cargill High River plant processes 35 per cent of Canada’s beef production.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 1, 2021.

Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press

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