World’s most littered item now recycled throughout Tennessee

MEMPHIS – TerraCycle, the world’s leader in the collection and repurposing of complex waste streams, has joined forces with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Keep Tennessee Beautiful (KTnB) and Keep Putnam County Beautiful-Clean Commission to recycle the world’s most littered item – cigarette butts. After being shipped to TerraCycle, the waste received through the program is processed into plastic pellets for use in a variety of recycled products and Keep America Beautiful receives a $1 donation for every pound of cigarette waste collected.

Through this program, KTnB and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development are not only addressing the nation’s most commonly littered item but also a form of potentially harmful plastic waste. As an early adopter of Keep America Beautiful’s (KAB) Cigarette Litter Prevention Program, several Tennessee organizations have been collecting cigarettes including the 16 Welcome Centers statewide, Bristol Motor Speedway, the annual CMA Awards, state and local parks and throughout downtown Memphis since 2015. 

Beginning in 2020, cigarettes collected at Tennessee Welcome Centers will be recycled through TerraCycle and two KTnB affiliates. Additionally, Keep Putnam County Beautiful-Clean Commission and Keep McMinn Beautiful launched cigarette recycling programs earlier this month. In order to divert as much cigarette waste from sidewalks, parks, landfills and shared waterways as possible, cigarette recycling receptacles have been placed in highly traversed areas identified by cigarette litter scans. 

“Since adding receptacles to Welcome Centers in 2016, we’ve made great progress in our cigarette litter prevention efforts. This was the logical next step. We thank TDOT, KTnB, KAB and others for allowing us to partner with them to combat this issue,” said Pete Rosenboro, assistant commissioner of Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. 

All of the collected waste collected through the cigarette recycling program is shipped to TerraCycle for recycling. When processed, the paper and tobacco is separated from the filter and composted. The filter is recycled into plastic pellets which can be used by manufacturers to make a number of products such as shipping pallets, ashtrays and park benches.

“Cigarettes remain the most littered item in our society today. We plan to utilize the $20,000 CLPP grant KTnB received this year to not only combat cigarette litter in our beautiful state, but also keep a lot of that litter out of our landfills by recycling via TerraCycle,” said KTnB’s Executive Director Missy Marshall. “This way we are improving our efforts to not only prevent but recycle cigarette litter being collected at each TN Welcome Center and with our affiliates, creating positive revenue for Keep America Beautiful, as KAB receives a $1 for each pound of litter received by TerraCycle.

Participating in TerraCycle’s Cigarette Recycling Program is KTnB’s latest effort to grow their socially responsible, environmental programs. In addition to introducing cigarette recycling, KTnB works to set a sustainable example through community garden maintenance, vacant lot restoration and education initiatives. 

TerraCycle has collected hundreds of millions of cigarette butts globally. Additionally, through its various recycling programs, it has engaged over 200 million people across 20 countries to collect and recycle more than eight billion pieces of waste that were otherwise non-recyclable. 

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