Port of San Diego Collects Cigarette Butts for Recycling


By The Maritime Executive 04-25-2018 11:55:13

The Port of San Diego has embarked on a unique project to recycle a type of waste that is often left behind as litter – cigarette butts.

The Port is working with TerraCycle, a recycling company that has become a global leader in recycling items such as used cigarette butts, coffee capsules and ocean plastic. 

The project will reduce the amount of discarded cigarette butts on Port tidelands and will help turn the waste into useful products. The Port recently installed 31 cigarette butt receptacles purchased from TerraCycle around San Diego Bay, in Port parks and in other Port areas with heavy pedestrian traffic. The receptacles provide a convenient option for smokers to dispose of their used cigarettes.

Staff from the Port’s General Services Department empty the receptacles and ship the used cigarette butts to TerraCycle. The company then processes the used butts, separating the tobacco from the paper. Those elements will be composted and the cigarette’s filter will be recycled into plastic pellets. The pellets can then be used by manufacturers to make several different types of products such as plastic lumber and shipping pallets.

Tom Szaky is the founder and chief executive officer of TerraCycle. He started the company while a student at Princeton University, dropping out in 2003 after his freshman year to build the business. Since then he has personally won more than 50 awards for entrepreneurship. TerraCycle is now collecting and recycling millions of cigarette butts across the U.S.