Butting out litter

The City of Montreal and the EcoQuartier of Point-aux-Prairies want smokers to think twice before throwing butts on the ground. And to make it easier they’re distributing 100,000 portable ashtrays.

Branded with the slogan “Save the Earth”, the ashtrays look kinda like this. They’re essentially small plastic pouches lined with a shiny flame-retardant material and padded with an odor-eating sponge. They can hold up to seven butts, snap neatly shut and fit in your pocket until you can dump the contents into the next bin. Manufactured in China, each pouch cost the city 40 cents, for a total of $40,000.

“You can wash it with a little mild soap inside, very very cool,” explained Robert Beaulieu, the executive director with the Pointe-aux-Prairies Ecoquartier. “And what’s cool about this as well is that instead of people throwing their cigarette butts on the floor, as you see all around us, that’s the situation. It takes 25 years for a cigarette butt to go back to the earth.”

Some people attribute the increase of discarded cigarette butts, especially around the entrances of buildings, to be a result of the smoking ban that forces smokers outside. Marcel Tremblay, the City’s Executive Committee member responsible for citizen services, says they have been working with businesses to increase the number of ashtrays and garbage cans outside. He added that all new receptacles for the city also have ashtrays. The portable ashtray giveaway is just another part of the wider strategy of OperationMontreal.net to clean up the streets. And Beaulieu says it’s also part of publicizing the message.

“This is a cool environmental way with an environmental phrase to show people how to do this stuff and how to do it right. Everybody likes to get involved in an environmental issue, the only problem is people don’t have time and this is a very happy and fast way to do it.”

The ashtrays are available at Access Montreal and borough offices. The Operation Montreal brigade handed out the ashtrays around the Complex Desjardin this afternoon. Several smokers thought it was a good idea because they say there aren’t enough ashtrays around. But others were less enthusiastic.

Jose Ruiz says he already uses regular ashtrays. “I don’t want my city to spend that money. Add extra trash-cans and cigarette holder things. There’s gotta be easier ways.”

Others draw attention to the fact that cigarette butts litter the ground literally feet from existing garbage cans.

But Marcel Tremblay is adament the project will work as long as people have the right attitude. “Do you love your city? You should keep it clean,” he pleaded. “So one of the elements that destroys our city are the [cigarette butts]. So we hope that you’ll change your attitude and basically throw it in and get rid of it where you normally should get rid of it.”


  1. Interesting but I wonder if the $40 000 dollar investment will actually make a significant difference. I’m sure most people who get the pouch will use them at first but then resort back to throwing them on the ground after they’ve misplaced it or realised that it’s much easier to just throw a butt away than carry it wound with you in a stupid pouch. Certainly some people certainly will use them but I highly doubt we’ll see a significant drop in cigarette butts around the city as a result. I’m sure the $40 000 could have been spent in a much smarter way.

  2. I visited Montreal in October 2008 and January 2009. Whether its this abovementioned pouch or the Mayor’s war on trash or something else, I commend Montrealers for having a clean City. Hardly any cigarette butts or other trash on the streets. It was a pleasure visiting.

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