A vice finds virtue: Biz group’s program recycles cigarettes strewn on Slope streets

A vice finds virtue: Biz group’s program recycles cigarettes strewn on Slope streets
Working his butts off: Paul Lotter, who maintains Park Slope streets in conjunction with the nabe’s Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, installed cigarette-recycling recepticles that turn the filth into functional goods along the thoroughfare last week.
Community News Group / Colin Mixson

Park Slopers are putting your butts to work — to save the planet!

Honchos of the nabe’s Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District installed special receptacles along the thoroughfare where puffing passersby can toss used cigarettes, which are then sent to a company that recycles the otherwise forgotten filth into functional goods, according to a street cleaner that works with the organization.

“We do what we need to do by keeping the streets clean, and they’re doing what they need to do to save the environment,” said Paul Lotter, who works for Block by Block, which the business group employs to maintain neighborhood sidewalks.

Lotter suggested installing the stogie-salvaging boxes to the commerce organization’s officials a few months ago, after discovering a New Jersey-based company that specializes in recycling unusual items, he said, and was surprised the business could put tar-stained tobacco filters to good use.

“Three months ago, I didn’t think this was an option,” he said of the company, Terra Cycle. “It’s crazy — but amazing!”

The enterprise advertises that its employees melt used cigarettes into a hard plastic that can then be refashioned into products such as pallets — structures that stabilize items being hoisted by a forklift or crane.

But Terra Cycle doesn’t just salvage filthy filters — its workers also reprocess cigarettes’ packaging to create reusable plastic, and compost leftover ash and tobacco, according to Lotter.

“They can make use out of a whole lot more than the cigarette butts,” he said.

The cleaner charged staffers to identify prominent butt-tossing spots along Fifth Avenue, and they ultimately installed two receptacles — one outside two bars between 17th and 18th streets, and another near a smoke shop between St. Marks and Prospect places — on Nov. 9 as part of a pilot program, which Lotter hopes to expand along the street and introduce to other nabe’s business-advocacy groups if the bins catch on.

“If this works here, there’s nothing stopping us for rolling it out with other BIDs,” he said.

And most people appreciate any chance to help the environment, but even some smokers were put off by the idea of reusing somebody else’s cigarette, according to a self-proclaimed puffer.

“It kind of sounds disgusting,” said Brittany Bergel, a Downtown resident who this newspaper spoke to while she strolled Fifth Avenue.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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