Vancouver’s pocket ashtray pilot aims to protect parks, beaches, wildlife and prevent fires

Pocket ashtray

THE City of Vancouver is encouraging residents to hold on to their butts.

Cigarette butts that is.

“Cigarette butts are the most prevalent type of litter collected in beach clean-ups around the world, and they are consistently the number one form of litter found on our local streets, parks and beaches,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart on Wednesday. “By putting waste in its place, we can do our part to protect our parks, beaches, waterways, and wildlife, and prevent human caused fires.”

As part of the City’s annual anti-litter public awareness campaign, “Put waste in its place”, pocket ashtrays will be distributed for free throughout the spring and summer at outreach events and year-round at a number of community centres, libraries and at City Hall campus.

Pocket ashtrays are intended to reduce cigarette butt litter by putting the solution directly in the hands of smokers, and making properly disposing of cigarette butts as convenient as possible. Users can store cigarette butts in the pocket ashtray until they are near a waste bin, where the ashtrays can be emptied and then reused again.

“Virtually all outdoor fires in Vancouver are started by discarded smoking material,” said Jonathan Gormick, Information Officer with Vancouver Fire Rescue Services. He added, “These fires spread rapidly, and have potentially devastating consequences – we need everyone’s help to eliminate this preventable danger. Keeping Vancouver green is a shared responsibility.”

“The DVBIA is committed to keeping the downtown core clean, safe, and welcoming,” said Charles Gauthier, President and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. “It’s shocking to see the huge impact that something as small as individually-discarded cigarette butts make on our streets. Through micro-cleaning efforts, our Downtown Clean Team does their best to collect and discard cigarette butts, but more awareness is needed to help stop the problem before it gets to that stage.”

“The visual pollution from cigarette butts all over our streets is part of the experience of our city and impacts how both visitors and residents feel and behave,” said Gwendal Castellan, Manager of Sustainable Destination Development for Tourism Vancouver. “A cleaner public space is a healthier and more inviting place. A city without cigarette butts is good for our environment but also for local businesses that rely on being next to an attractive and vibrant place to attract customers.”

The City said it is everyone’s responsibility to dispose of their waste properly, whether it’s a big item, like an unwanted mattress, or smaller items, like a disposable cup or cigarette butt. The City encourages residents to report illegal dumping or abandoned garbage using the VanConnect app.

When gathering in parks and public spaces:

–   Use the waste and recycling receptacles provided

–   If you see litter on the street, consider picking it up and placing it in a container

–   Think about operating on the “Pack-it-in/Pack-it-out” premise

–   Use the Waste Wizard to find out how to properly recycle or dispose of waste. 

Littering cigarette butts on the ground is illegal and could result in fines ranging from $100 to $10,000.

The cigarette butt recycling pilot program, the first of its kind in the world, launched in November 2013 with the installation of approximately 100 cigarette recycling bins on several blocks within four downtown business improvement areas: Downtown Vancouver, West End, Robson Street, and Gastown.

The program has since expanded to include a butt receptacle placed on the side of most of the on-street recycling receptacles. Since the program started, over 1.2 million butts have been recycled.

For more information on the City’s efforts to reduce cigarette butt litter, including a list of pocket ashtray dispenser locations, visit