Shepherdstown Mayor Jim Auxer cares a lot about the environment. And as one of the Panhandle’s greenest, most outdoor-friendly locations, he feels it’s everyone’s responsibility to help keep Shepherdstown clean.
“I like to think that everyone can play a part in taking care of the town—whether it’s through cleaning up the back alleys behind businesses and residences, or even picking up trash laying on the street,” he emphasized.
As the holidays approached this year, he continued to ruminate on an additional cause: helping businesses get the most out of the season. As it turns out, one particular area of public concern kept popping up in local conversations: cigarette litter.
“I’m always trying to think of ways to bring more people into the town, especially during the holiday,” said Auxer. “We’ve been hearing about, and seeing, the cigarette litter problem for a while now. We wanted to figure out a way to clean that up to help both the environment, as well as the town. No one wants to visit a place if it looks like a landfill—people need to understand that.”
Enter Town Recorder Lori Robertson—who on a recent trip to Florida, came across an intriguing contraption that apparently recycled cigarette butts. “I found this metal thing on a pole in Florida and the label said TerraCycle—so I looked them up.”
Turns out, TerraCycle is a global leader specializing in hard-to-recycle waste. The innovative company offers a range of free programs that are funded by conscientious companies, as well as recycling solutions available for purchase for almost every form of waste.
One of their recycling programs focuses on cigarette butts. “Oddly enough, the cigarette companies finance this—not all, but some,” Robertson pointed out. “The accepted waste is the extinguished cigarette itself, the filter, the loose tobacco, the outer plastic packaging, the inner foil packaging, the rolling paper, and the ashes—they take all of it.”
The only part that a TerraCycle cigarette-recycling receptacle won’t take is the cardboard box that the cigarettes come in—which is easily recycled in a standard recycling container. “Essentially, what you see on the ground in the way of cigarette butt is totally recyclable,” she added.
Robertson and Auxer have already installed some of the metal tubes around the downtown area. “We’re certainly hoping that people will see these tubes and use them,” she said. “We’re putting them in areas that we’ve deemed as high-traffic/smoking areas throughout town. People can literally put their cigarette out, and drop it in the tube.”
“Once collected, the cigarettes are separated by composition and melted into hard plastic that can be reused,” Robertson explained. “The ash and tobacco are separated and composted. And for every pound of cigarette waste collected, TerraCycle donates one dollar to the Keep America Beautiful Cigarette Litter Prevention Program.”
Among a host of upcoming initiatives for Shepherdstown, Auxer wants people to put garbage where it’s supposed to go—either in the recycling bin or the garbage can. “We all love Shepherdstown for many reasons—one of which is that it’s so beautiful,” he said. “It’s everyone’s responsibility to keep it that way.”
— Featured in picture: (L to R): Shepherdstown Director of Public Works, Frank Welch, Robertson, and Auxer.