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Cigarette butts pose the biggest threat to NMI coastlines

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THE Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality-Division of Coastal Resources Management on Tuesday said the most collected debris during the 2020 International Coastal Cleanup in the CNMI were cigarette butts.

To be exact, 9,833 cigarette butts were collected in this year’s cleanup alone.

In an interview earlier this month, ICC coordinator for the CNMI Colleen Flores said, “The problem with cigarette butts is that, although small, there are way too many to ignore.”

She said one way to tackle the cigarette butt issue is to encourage behavior change.

“Get a reusable pocket size ashtray — yes, that’s a thing — properly dispose of your cigarette butts in nearby trash cans, or speak up when you see someone flicking their cigarette butts in our environment,” said Flores.

She said the top 10 most collected debris during the 2020 ICC were cigarette butts, plastic bottle caps, beverage cans, food wrappers, plastic bottles, metal bottle caps, plastic cutlery, straws/stirrers, other plastic bags, and plastic grocery bags.

In all, the coastal cleanup collected 5,576 plastic bottle caps, 2,882 beverage cans, 2,388 food wrappers, 1,958 plastic bottles, 1,547 metal bottle caps, 1,339 plastic cutlery, 1,235 straws/stirrers, 984 other plastic bags, and 834 plastic grocery bags.

Other debris collected included  26,509 pieces of microplastics, 906 tiny glass pieces, and 705 tiny foam pieces.

Flores said the tiny foam, glass, and plastic pieces were less than 2.5 centimeters and were remnants of what used to be larger debris.

“Foam, glass, and plastic never fully biodegrade and instead break down into smaller and smaller pieces that, occasionally, find [their] way onto our shores,” she explained.

This year, 971 volunteers participated in the coastal cleanup, collecting over 9,000 pounds of trash in 75 locations across the Commonwealth.

The 2020 International Coastal Cleanup in the CNMI was held on Saturday, Sept.19.

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