Thursday, July 25, 2024

Island advocacy group’s cigarette surfboard shines light on plastic pollution


An environmental advocacy group based on Vancouver Island’s west coast is making history, launching Canada’s first cigarette butt surfboard into the waters of the Pacific Rim.

The unique feat comes in a push to bring more awareness to the impacts littered cigarette butts have on the environment, including waterways, says Surfrider Pacific Rim coordinator Laurie Hannah.

Measuring seven feet long, assembly of the Twin Fish board, dubbed the ‘Dart Board’, wrapped up last November, and so far, community feedback has been a wave of positivity.

“It actually rides really good. There are three local riders who rode it. It’s a totally rideable board,” Hannah told Victoria Buzz.

Jesse Jones, a surfboard shaper from Ucluelet, brought the project to life, while local filmmaker Mike Dandurand captured the project’s life cycle, from beginning to end, for all to see.

According to Hannah, Surfrider’s ‘On To Your Butt Campaign’ has been running for several years, working with locals to recycle cigarette butts in Tofino and Ucluelet and collecting around 1.2 million butts since 2017.

“You see signs all along the highway saying ‘do not litter,’ but we really don’t seem to have the same social idea around cigarette butts. Everyone just seems to flick them,” said Hannah.

Through the years and countless beach cleanups later, she finds the number of littered cigarette butt filters, made from non-biodegradable cellulose acetate, is actually on the rise.

“It’s disheartening,” said Hannah.

“Not only within our organization in Tofino and Ucluelet but across the globe. Worldwide, it’s still the number one item found, according to the World Health Organization.”

Besides cleanups, the group also collects cigarette butts from nearly 100 canisters scattered across the region before delivering them to Terracycle to be recycled into plastic lumber and pallets.

In a continued push for a federal ban on plastic cigarette filters, Surfrider Pacific Rim is also advocating for tobacco corporations to be responsible for the mass collection, recycling, and cleanup of cigarette butts and all packaging.

Learn more about the group’s ongoing campaign online here.

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