City’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission discusses plan to implement cigarette receptacles

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In an attempt to reduce the environmental hazard of cigarette butt waste, Berkeley’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission drafted a recommendation Thursday directing the city manager to place receptacles for cigarette disposal throughout the Downtown area.

The commission’s proposed pilot program would place receptacles on Shattuck Avenue between Bancroft and University avenues, which would include signage illustrating the environmental hazard of cigarette butt litter.

The recommendation also calls for the city manager to explore storm drain collection for discarded cigarette butts and consider posting maps or using electronic maps to clarify no-smoking zones in Berkeley, among other provisions.

During the meeting, members discussed the recommendation and proposed changes to the document as written. While no substantial changes were made, several members expressed the desire to clearly define the recommendation’s environmental impact before presenting it to City Council.

“We’re not just trying to aggressively go after smokers,” said Commissioner Liz Varnhagen at the meeting. “We should keep it focused on reducing cigarette butts as the city’s contribution to the environment.”

Nabil Al-Hadithy, secretary of the commission, expressed concern over the cost of implementing such a project, explaining that City Council could ultimately reject the recommendation based on the costs of installing and maintaining the receptacles.

“I don’t think this proposal should receive negative input from any parties,” he said. “All I see is the potential for it to be shut down based on the cost.”

Al-Hadithy ultimately advised the commission to pass the recommendation on to the city’s Department of Public Works for a cost estimate before moving it forward to City Council. He hopes that the commission will receive a response within the next week, which will allow members to consider alternative options before moving forward with the program.

Other discussion topics at Thursday’s meeting included the implementation of changes to improve indoor air quality, mandatory green stormwater infrastructure in new developments and mandatory showerheads for certain new housing projects. But the commission did not take any direct action on these topics and will revisit them at a later date.

Contact Ariel Hayat at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ArielHayat.