Cigarette butt bins pop up in downtown Olympia

Smokers in downtown Olympia, especially those who puff outside local businesses, may notice the installation in the past few days of 10 cigarette butt receptacles.

These heavy-duty bins are part of a project by the city’s Parking and Business Improvement Area (PBIA). Decorated with butterflies that have cigarette bodies, the metal bins are attached to posts in areas where smokers often congregate, such as outside bars and restaurants.

Last fall, a pair of test bins went up outside Caffe Vita at Fourth Avenue and Washington Street, and outside The 4th Ave. Tav up the road. Employees at both locations told The Olympian they have since noticed a reduction in cigarette butt litter outside their business.

Another five receptacles will be installed later this week, bringing the total to 17, said Brian Wilson, the city’s downtown liaison.

Cleaning up cigarette butts can be time-consuming, said Rob Richards, director of the Downtown Ambassador Program and Clean Team. Disposal for the team is now as simple as unlocking the metal containers. This means fewer butts to pick up individually with a grabber tool, he said.

“There were a lot less cigarette butts on the ground after they were installed,” said Richards, adding that the Clean Team will check on the new receptacles and empty them weekly.

The receptacles cost about $300 each, according to the PBIA, and were made by Zeigler’s Welding. Butterfly designs were painted by Ira Coyne at I.C. Signs, Kris Cunningham and Scott Young.

The project was spearheaded by PBIA board members and downtown business owners Sarah Adams and Connie Phegley as part of the Clean and Safe Committee. Adams was inspired by a similar effort in Portland, Maine, where one business owner’s off-beat idea led to the installation of nearly 70 cigarette receptacles, according to The Bangor Daily News.

The PBIA is a self-taxing district comprised of more than 425 business owners. The PBIA’s money goes toward projects that promote safety and cleanliness downtown.