Above, one of three mounds at the Seneca Meadows Landfill in Waterloo, NY, as seen from the west side of Seneca Lake approximately eight miles away (through a telephoto lens). Credit: Kevin Colton, HWS.

EPA Region Map

EPA Region Map
EPA Region Map

Monday, February 21, 2011

Harmful to health... in more ways then you think

This week has given us some ups and downs in terms of weather, and on one of those up days when the sun was melting away all the snow I happened upon this little spot behind the North dorm. I know it's rather hard to see- I blame my cheap camera and bad lighting- but all around the door behind North are little cigarette filters. The melting snow had revealed a tiny cigarette graveyard. It stopped me in my tracks, there were so many all over the ground, clearly someone comes out here regularly for their daily fix of nicotine. I've noticed other places like this around campus, like the entrance to the cafe or the library entrance with the "No Smoking" sign. Although there are slender black cigarette-butt containers scattered around campus, if they aren't placed in just the right spot than there's no stopping a smoker from leaving a pile of grimy filters. Despite my disgust with all of these little cigarette mounds there's no ignoring the fact that people pretty much just flick their cigarette onto the ground when they're done, regardless of where that may be. It doesn't take long to find a filter, they're literally everywhere. It made me think: cigarette butts are probably the most common form of litter worldwide. It also reminded me of some pictures I had seen of bird corpses full of plastic trash... and filters. Here is a trash item that is all around us everyday, something that isn't hidden away in landfills. I am tempted to spend a day collecting as many as I can on campus just to try and quantify them. They find their way into the mouths of birds where they aren't digested, eventually the bird eats enough of this indigestible garbage until they starve to death... with a full stomach. They also contain the filtered chemicals from the cigarette, which then leech into the ground.

Everyone knows cigarettes are harmful to your health and to those inhaling second hand smoke, but I doubt people think beyond the obvious to the harms they cause to the environment.

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