Dover Youth to Youth students became aware of cigarette littering as a major problem. Cigarettes are the most littered item in the world – trillions of butts are not properly disposed of each year. Cigarette filters take about 10 years to decompose, so the littering problem will not disappear by itself. The students decided to first measure the extent of the problem at the beach and then take action to educate the public of the problem.
In the summer of 2004 students went to Wallis Sands Beach in Rye, New Hampshire (part of NH’s Atlantic Coast) and broke up into small groups of about six students per group. Each group was assigned a random location which had a roped off 10 foot x10 foot square – representing the space an average family would take up at the beach. Wearing gloves and armed with sifters, students hunted through the sand within the roped off square and collected any tobacco littler.
Students searched five 10 x 10 squares and found an average of almost 40 butts per square (199 butts in 5 squares). After an additional quick sweep of the entire beach students found over 300 more cigarettes.
After the initial research was conducted in 2004 students educated the public about the problem. They head a press conference, created a Public Service Announcement and told hundreds of people about what they found.
In the summer of 2006 students went back to the beach to see if the problem improved or got worse. They followed the same procedure of roping out the squares and sifting through to collect the butts.
Based on comparison of the 2004 and 2006 results, the numbers of cigarettes littered at Wallis Sands Beach have decreased from an average of 40 per 10×10 square to 12. Although there seems to be measurable improvement – tobacco litter is still a problem and Dover Youth to Youth is continuing to educate the community about the problem. Y2Y urges smokers to properly dispose of their cigarettes.
New Hampshire State Parks and Recreation Department has also increased the number of cigarette receptacles at its beaches and parks as a result of the publicity brought about by the Youth to Youth project.