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Cigarette Butts, Single-use Items Among Trash Revealed By Warmer Temps

Recycle Utah

On Saturday, volunteers for Recycle Utah’s Pride in Your Park clean-up event filled 200 garbage bags full of trash—three to four times more than ever before. 

Volunteers picked up cigarette butts, flossers and plastic bags throughout Park City and Summit County, as the spring thaw revealed rubbish left over from winter. Recycle Utah Outreach Director Haley Lebsack says, with the help of Comcast Cares Foundation and neighborhood HOAs, the event had 268 volunteers who were able to cover more ground than in years past, resulting in the multiplied measure of waste. Lebsack says volunteers also came across recyclable items.

“A lot of things, had they been disposed of properly in the beginning, could have been recycled," Lebsack said.  "But by the time we get to cleaning it up, the cardboard and the paper—it's wet, it's contaminated, it's no longer an item that can be turned into anything else.”

Volunteers found most of the trash along highways, in parking lots and in snowbanks, from when snowplows pushed litter out of the street. Lebsack can’t pinpoint whether the trash came from locals or tourists, but she thinks a lot of it comes from major events.

“Intentional littering has decreased since the '70s, but the amount of litter on the road has increased because of unintentional littering," Lebsack said. "Things like when we have huge events and the garbage cans are overflowing; stuff blows out, single-use items have multiplied.”

To keep the town clean, Lebsack recommends smokers properly dispose of cigarette butts because they’re not biodegradable. Also, don’t try to shove trash into garbage cans that are already full. And most of all, Lebsack says, cut down on single-use items.

“We didn’t pick up reusable grocery bags, we didn't pick up Tupperware containers that people had taken to the restaurants to fill up their leftovers," Lebsack said. "We picked up water bottles and plastic bags and fast food containers and stuff that didn't ever even need to be used or created, anyway. It was waste that didn't need to be generated in the first place.”

Lebsack says if community members want to clean up their own neighborhoods, Recycle Utah is starting a program in June to loan out pick-up sticks for the weekend.

Emily Means hadn’t intended to be a journalist, but after two years of studying chemistry at the University of Utah, she found her fit in the school’s communication program. Diving headfirst into student media opportunities, Means worked as a host, producer and programming director for K-UTE Radio as well as a news writer and copy editor at The Daily Utah Chronicle.