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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Butts and the Homeless

Apparently today's RedEye decided to spend an entire page of print regarding the problem of too many cigarette butts littering the beaches and streets of Chicago. Because with gas prices and a war and failing public transportation - it's the perfect time to rub more salt into the wounds of smokers who have been chastized out of every building and shunned a distance of 15 feet from building entrances.

They apparently followed around some environmental organization member and watched her pick up cigarette butts on the North Avenue Beach and she collected "137 butts in a few minutes."

The city is now going to start issuing $500 fines this summer to "anyone caught puffing or tossing a cigarette scrap within 15 feet of a beach."

So on one page, there's an article about this woman picking up butts and complaining about smokers - next to that is a blurb about how deadly and toxic and non-biodegradable the components of cigarette filters are - and under it all is a statistic-laden indictment of how few butts make it to trash cans and how dirty the city really is. There's also the burning question calling for feedback:

"Are cigarette butts blighting the beach, or should non-smokers lighten up?"

Well, here's my reply I plan on sending:

If the city drives all the smokers from indoors (where there are lots of garbage cans) to the outdoors (where garbage cans are scarce), the inevitable fact is that the outdoors becomes littered with cigarette butts. Smokers may be to blame for their garbage, but more to blame are the people who drove them away from the bounty of indoor trash bins.

As for the solution, local businesses should be able to enroll in a city program where they can issue plastic bags to the homeless and pay them $5 for collecting a full bag with cigarette butts. The homeless do honest work and get paid (rather than harrassing passers-by for money), the city gets cleaner and maybe the businesses get some reward for participating in the program. Win-win-win.

--Aaron Samuels, 24, Bridgeport

Do you think it's a crazy idea? I know, it's different from my usual method of dealing with the homeless (read: ignoring them), but anything that gets them off my case can't be a bad thing.

Update: They sent back an e-mail saying:

Thanks again Aaron.

RedEye staff

Which I think is their way of saying "we appreciate the response, but we won't be printing it." Oh well, at least that's what I have a blog for!


Anonymous said...

Hell yes, pay homeless people less than minimum wage. Brilliant, humane, and logical. And I don't know about you, but I day dream about smashed coffee filters between my toes and pulling nicotine out of my baby's mouth while he builds a sand castle. Smokers really should be able to drop their cigarette butts any old place. Coffee drinkers should leave their Starbuck's cups on my steps because I don't put a garbage can there. I personally like to leave my kid's dirty diapers on the counter top of public restrooms if they don't make the trash can large enough to just drop it in.
Every business and office should just cater to the people who cannot be bothered.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you do an experiment? Spend two hours asking homeless people if they will pick up a bag of cigarette butts for $5? I'd be really curious to see if you got any takers.

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