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Fresh Heir aims to pick up 50,000 cigarette butts

SIMCOE, ON, JULY 20, 2009 – Building on the success of previous campaigns, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s Youth Action Alliance, Fresh Heir, will be cleaning up cigarette butts in both Haldimand and Norfolk on Sunday, July 26.

Fresh Heir’s teenage peer leaders and volunteers will collect as many cigarette butts off the ground as possible in a 30-minute time period before heading off to their next destination. Planned stops include Caledonia, Cayuga, Hagersville, Dunnville, Jarvis, Simcoe, Port Dover, Waterford and Turkey Point.

The motto, “Live Fresh, Go Green,” was chosen to emphasize the importance of the environment, the negative impacts that cigarette butts have on the environment and to encourage the proper disposal of cigarette butts as a positive step towards a “greener” future.

“This year we want to make even more of an impact,” said Peer Leader Kristen Rattray. “Our first cigarette butt cleanup in August 2007 was a great success, with a collection of more than 20,000 cigarette butts. During last year’s cigarette butt cleanup in April 2008, we collected almost 40,000 cigarette butts. This year, with our experience and volunteer support, we are hoping to collect more than 50,000 cigarette butts from local parks, walkways and community centres.”

This cleanup is a part of the group’s multi-step action plan to educate the community about the environmental and health hazards of littered cigarette butts. The group is also pressing tobacco companies to include inserts or messages on their packages to encourage proper disposal of their products, similar to those found on coffee cups and fast food packaging, or to design more environmentally-friendly filters.

“People often assume that since cigarette filters are so small and have a paper wrapping, they are biodegradable and relatively harmless. However, that is not the case at all,” said Peer Leader Megan Hartwick. “Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate, a plastic that can take more than 10 years to break down, and in the process releases the harmful mixture of chemicals trapped inside.”

Katie Mattina, another peer leader added, “An estimated 4.5 trillion butts are littered worldwide every year. In national and international coastal cleanups, as well as city street cleanups, cigarette butts routinely top the list of the most common litter items collected. Animals and children can be seriously harmed by ingesting cigarette butts. Also, improperly discarded cigarette butts are often carried into drains or in rivers, where they leach their harmful chemicals, such as lead and arsenic, into the water supply.”

For more information or if you would like to volunteer with Fresh Heir for this event, contact the group at[email protected]or call the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit at 519-426-6170 Ext. 3276 or 905-318-6623 Ext. 3276.

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Media Contact: Josh Daley, Youth Advisor, Smoke-Free Ontario Program, Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit, 519-426-6170 Ext. 3276 or 905-318-6623 Ext. 3276