The chartreuse sign on the refuse containers virtually screamed ‘No Smoking’. A major Toronto shopping mall developer appears to be making a concerted effort to ban cigarette smoke and butts from their outdoor areas.
When I saw two young women lighting up steps away from the loudly coloured can at Entrance #7 I went over to them to survey their views.
I drew their attention to the sign and they acted as though they had missed it.
“Obviously there won’t be any ashtrays here,” I said, gesturing again to the cheery looking waste bin. “So just to get this straight, if there’s no ashtray you will litter your butts ... “
Said one, as if to prove herself a more considerate litterer, “I flick them to the curb, toward the gulley.”
“Yes,” I said, “so they can go into our waterways and leach their toxins there.”
Before they could look too sheepish, I handed them a portable ashtray and introduced them to the idea of using (and reusing) it. They thanked me. I described how it is possible today to collect and redeem butts to do worthy things like restore someone’s eyesight. By now they wanted me to go away. I doused them with a few more litter facts before making my way to another smoker, assured that those two women would not litter this time.
Parmeet was having a quiet puff by the curb. He was standing on the roadway near where his vehicle was illegally parked. He accepted my ashtray and seemed receptive to my doling of facts. He took a flying guess when I asked how many butts are littered every year worldwide. “I dunno. A couple of million?” he ventures.
“Five trillion,” I say. I rattle off the breakdown – 1,825 butts littered on average if a smoker does litter, 54,750 - a wheelbarrow full - over a lifetime. Parmeet is astounded.
Most smokers won’t mind if you calmly give them something to think about over their cigarette. In my experience, they thank me for it.