In recent decades, people seem to have gotten the message that it's not OK to throw cups, bottles, bags and wrappers on the ground.
But few smokers hesitate to flick cigarette butts while driving or walking - as evidenced by the bloom of butts at busy intersections and scattered on sidewalks, under bushes and in parking lots.
To help convince smokers in this area that butts are litter, too, the Intermunicipal Relations Committee will form a cigarette litter task force this month.
The task force will help direct the use of $4,000 the committee recently obtained in grants from Keep America Beautiful's Cigarette Litter Prevention Campaign.
The money - $1,000 each to be spent in the committee's four member municipalities - will go for signs, stand-alone butt containers, pocket and auto ashtrays, and education at selected locations.
Cigarette smoking has decreased 28 percent in the last decade, but butts remain the most littered item in the U.S. and the world, according to a Guide to Cigarette Litter Prevention on the Keep America Beautiful website.
Research in Australia shows that many smokers don't think throwing their butts on the ground is inappropriate, according to a Guide to Cigarette Litter Prevention on the Keep America Beautiful website.
In the days of unfiltered cigarettes, it seemed that butts simply "went away," said committee Executive Director John Frederick.
Most of the filters of modern cigarettes, however, are made of cellulose acetate, a kind of plastic that doesn't degrade quickly, according to the guide.
Frederick finds the roadside carpets of white and tan filters disgusting, and he'll provide gloves and even masks to those who will be doing the "butt scans," he said.
According to the grant protocols, workers will count the butts in a designated area, begin the prevention program, then recount, continue the program, then count a third time, to learn how the program is working, Frederick said.
The protocol requires that half the money go for containers, said Katrina Pope, the committee's education and enforcement coordinator.
The standalone containers may go in areas like parks and public plazas, she said.
Tobacco products comprise 38 percent of all roadway litter, and 18 percent of litter ends up in waterways, much of it after traveling through storm drains, according to the guide.
Lots of butts get dropped in recreation areas, including beaches and parks, which drags down the appeal of those areas, according to the guide.
Most cigarette littering happens at transition points, where smokers must dispose of their butts before entering a non-smoking area, according to the guide.
Eighty percent of smokers said they would dispose of their butts properly if an appropriate container were available.
The committee has invited planners, business development experts, government officials and planners to join the task force, Frederick said.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.