Butt out! What to do about cigarette butts littering our streets (photos)

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Kirkland's image as a clean, safe environment is at risk.

Our city needs commerce. When people choose to spend their time and money elsewhere, our local economy suffers and we all lose.

Cigarette butts are littering our city. They are dirty.

They are costly to clean up.

And they are everywhere.

First off, I will admit that I am not a smoker. I know many polite smokers who do not litter our streets. The problems we face with cigarette butts littering our city are the result of a minority of smokers concentrated around a minority of business establishments in town.

To the smokers who properly dispose of their cigarette butts, I say, thank you.

To the merchants in town who clean up after their smoking patrons and employees, I salute you.

To those who are causing these problems, I say we need to find a solution.

As a volunteer member of Kudos Kirkland, I have worked alongside dozens of volunteers who have spent hundreds of hours cleaning the streets of Kirkland of cigarette butts, litter and weeds. Sweeping sidewalks, removing cigarette butts from sidewalk cracks on our hands and knees, emptying flower beds used as ashtrays, gutters and alleyways around town is what we do. As a volunteer group, Kudos Kirkland has worked hard to help spruce up our city, but there are a few areas that are eyesores constantly littered with cigarette butts. Needless to say, we are very familiar with the issue.

Most casual observers in town can identify the streets where businesses improperly dispose of the butts from their employees and patrons. The purpose of this editorial is to start a discussion and seek a way to help the merchants and their patrons be responsible for the litter they produce. This is about becoming better stewards of our community.

Some merchants have installed cigarette butt receptacles on their sidewalks. Perhaps more Kirkland merchants need similar devices installed outside their businesses? Reducing cigarette butts on our sidewalks would go a long way in cleaning up our city. We applaud the merchants who provide cigarette butt disposal for their patrons and employees. We need to address those who do not.

Just as each of us is responsible for cleaning our own front yard, merchants are responsible for sweeping their own sidewalks and keeping their storefronts clean. In the past when city budgets were not so tight, city crews did more to clean up of the streets.

Those days are no more.

Let's stop turning a blind eye to one of Kirkland's biggest eyesores. Let's find a solution to prevent littering of our streets with cigarette butts.

We welcome your thoughts and ideas.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user iambents