Scene in Edmonds: No butts about it — this is no ashtray

Martin Banel sent us this photo, taken in the 500 block of Main Street, with a request that nearby restaurants encourage their customers "to not to not have their patrons use our trees as ashtrays."
Martin Banel sent us this photo, taken in the 500 block of Main Street, with a request that nearby restaurants encourage their customers to avoid using “our trees as ashtrays.” Consider it done, Martin.


  1. I feel bad for whoever has to pick up every last one of those cigarette butts. Whatever they are being paid to do it, it isn’t enough. C’mon, folks.

  2. I grew up in a smoking household, but somehow emerged a non-smoker. I recall watching my father and others simply toss their ciggie butts on the ground, stomp them out, and walk away. Now this was a guy who was very mindful of litter — he’d put a candy wrapper in his pocket to throw away later, and I’d get in big trouble if I threw so much as a Popsicle stick on the ground. But somehow he had this blind spot about cigarette butts. And to this day I wonder about that subset of smokers who are responsible citizens in all other respects, but haven’t yet connected that cigarette butts are litter too.

    According to Wikipedia, cigarette filters are primarily cellulose acetate, which takes about 2 years to biodegrade. According to the same article, Washington State mandates a $1024 fine for tossing your cigarette butt, and this can run into much more if it starts a fire! I wonder how often this is enforced? Here’s the link for anyone who’s interested:

    But I don’t think the solution lies in threats and fines, but rather in providing safe, convenient options to smokers. I can imagine the dilemma of standing there with a burning butt in your hand, not wanting to toss it in a trash receptacle for fear of fire, and ultimately tossing it on the ground and stomping it out as the best of several bad options. Perhaps businesses and/or the city might consider providing safe receptacles for cigarette butts in locations where smokers congregate?

  3. Larry, long before I quit I mastered the technique of rolling the filter between my fingers so the burning tobacco fell out — this can be stepped on and the butt disposed of however you like. It’s been a very long time, but I’m sure that still works.

  4. Larry, I know you mean well to suggest this, but I don’t think it is up to businesses to provide receptacles for cigarette trash (butts) , that is the individual’s own responsibility to keep their trash to themselves. After the 4th of July parade, if everyone had taken their own trash home, we wouldn’t have had trash cans overflowing all over town.

  5. Great point Jenny! Yes, the city does provide trash cans and doesn’t say in effect “your litter is your responsibility, so carry it home.” Cigarette butts are trash too, but a lit butt in a can full of mixed trash is a very real fire risk. So again, maybe appropriate receptacles for butts would be a step toward controlling this class of litter, and ultimately make for a better downtown environment for everyone.

  6. I think this is more a person emptying their car ash tray. The butts seem to be all pretty uniform for it to be many random restaurant customers smoking different brands etc.

  7. Every morning Paula (owner of The Loft) and I (Fabric of Life) walk the sidewalk from our locations to the bench near Sound Styles picking up dozens and sometimes 100’s of butts. It is indeed egregious how inconsiderate smokers can be.

    And when it rains, there are dozens of butts ground into the tiled covered porch in front of Fabric of Life.

    Not sure what the answer is but whenever I see someone smoking I ask them kindly not to throw their butts on the ground. Perhaps if everyone seeing a smoker would comment that we care about our city streets the word will get out (…no if ands or butts about it !!) …couldn’t resist…


  8. This is a very interesting issue; it is surprising that it has taken until now for it to be addressed. I am not a smoker and have never been a smoker. But I have some empathy for their situation. If someone is walking around smoking, isn’t the ground the safest place to dispose of butts? There are containers for other litter, but nothing for butts – so the ground has historically largely been the accepted place for them. Perhaps we need small containers attached to the traditional trash containers. Somebody probably has a better practical, suggestion.


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