Debris flushed out of the storm drain
I've been out on several early morning walks in the past few days. The bridges across Bassett Creek are a favorite place for dog walkers and runners. The water levels in the creek and river have been lower lately and old plastic containers lying in the muck are exposed for easier retrieving.
Closeup of Bassett Creek
Yesterday morning when I looked down from the bridge I thought all that debris was wood and grass but there were thousands of cigarette butts in the water along with small plastic bottle caps and other junk. Where does that stuff come from? It did rain the night before and I assume that this stuff was flushed from the storm drains from downtown.
Flower bed on Nicollet Mall
When I walk around downtown Minneapolis I see a lot of cigarette butts pretty much everywhere. When smokers were inside with ash trays we probably did a better job of disposing of cigarette waste. I suppose this is one of the unintended consequences of making our indoor public spaces smoke free. According to a February Minnpost article the 2013 tax increase on cigarettes ($1.60 a pack) has resulted in a 24% reduction in cigarette sales in the past 12 months while at the same time generated more tax revenue. I get that the goal is to make our state healthier by pricing cigarettes too high for kids to start and encourage everyone else to quit.
It's great that we are seeing reductions in smoking but we still have to deal with the cigarette butts that are going down our storm drains and into the river. What is the state doing with the extra money generated by the increased tax revenue? In downtown I periodically see DID Ambassadors (Downtown Improvement District) in their green vests picking up cigarette butts but there are just too many of them (butts) and their primary job is to help tourists.
With the increase price of cigarettes are folks finding that cigarillos are a better value? I pick up 20 of these wrappers everyday when I walk in the park. In any case downtown Minneapolis seems to have a problem with getting folks to put their butts into trash receptacles. One thing I notice in downtown is that there are very few cigarette only trash receptacles. Do those type of receptacles encourage better litter prevention? Maybe we need to start handing out portable ashtrays to folks in downtown as suggested by the Keep America Clean organization.
The City of Minneapolis has an adopt an ash receptacle program if you are interested in helping with that.