‘Trash Tramps’ collect and recycle cigarette butts in Montpelier

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MONTPELIER, Vt.- A group of volunteers are working to keep the streets of Vermont’s Capitol City litter free piece by piece.

“We meet every week, this is the end of our fourth year,” said Anne Ferguson, a founder of Trash Tramps.

Equipped with bags and tongs, the group deploy every Tuesday afternoon from the Montpelier Senior Activity Center on Barre Street.

“It’s a spiritual practice, you know,” said Ferguson. “It’s caring for the earth”

In the beginning, volunteers picked up all the trash they could find. But they quickly realized something was being overlooked: cigarette butts.

“You drop your butt on the sidewalk, it’s going to get washed into the storm drain and therefore get in the river,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson says the self-proclaimed tramps collect 3,000 to 4,000 butts a week. That’s more than 800,000 butts since the group was formed in 2015.

“It’s not because we’re really big smokers here,” she said “It’s because we a system in place to collect them.”

The group brings the butts to the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District.

“We ship them to TerraCycle which than coordinates the recycling of those items,” said Brenna Toman.

When processed, the paper and tobacco is separated from the filter and composted while the filter is recycled into plastic pellets.

“They’re used for plastic pallets for industrial uses but also for plastic park benches and outdoor furniture,” said Toman.

CVSWMD has helped the secure grants for the tramps to help support their efforts. There have been several sidewalk buttlers installed around the city which collect thousands of butts every year.

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