Eight students from Beijing, China investigated cigarette butt pollution in Santa Monica over two days on August 4 and 5.
Following a real scientific protocol using belt transects, their
study compared the number of cigarette butts found in commonly littered
areas of a residential neighborhood, beach boardwalk, and open sandy
In total, 1,922 butts were counted and collected from the three study sites.
The eight student team, aged 12-13, were among 26 Chinese middle and
high school students taking part in a new environmentally-themed
international summer science program called Splash in Science, founded
and directed by Santa Monica High School teacher/Santa Monica College
lecturer Benjamin Kay.
Kay said based the students’
data, the group can definitively identify a ‘community ashtray’ - the
one meter wide strip of sand adjacent to the boardwalk, especially
between the Casa Del Mar Hotel and the Santa Monica Pier.
were also notable hotspots of residential cigarette pollution, like 229
Bicknell Avenue," Kay said. "Like many complexes, this condominium
building is smoke-free, so residents appear to smoke in front of the
building where there are no permanent trash cans or cigarette
receptacles. Thus, there is a great opportunity for the city to respond
with strategic placement of litter abatement devices, which would
greatly reduce cigarette butts that end in the ocean.”
The beach boardwalk study site, specifically along the boardwalk-sand
interface between the Santa Monica Pier and Ocean Park Blvd, contained
the highest abundance of butts with an average of one butt found every
two square meters.
The residential study site, specifically along the sidewalk-street
interface of Bay Street, Bicknell Avenue, and Pacific Street between 3rd
Street and Main Street, possessed slightly fewer butts with an average
of one butt found every three square meters.
The sandy beach site between Bay Street and Hollister Avenue had a
comparatively small abundance with an average of one butt found every 13
square meters, although hidden cigarettes buried in the sand were not
included in visual surveys.
Breaking the boardwalk data down by zone revealed that cigarette butt
abundance is three to four times higher closer to the Santa Monica Pier
than in zones further from the pier, likely a result of more
people/foot-traffic in this zone.
Furthermore, in all three zones, the one meter strip of sand
bordering the concrete boardwalk contained five to eight times more
butts than the equivalent spatial area of boardwalk itself, with average
abundance as high as one butt per square meter of sand.
Closer examination of the residential data revealed that streets of
similar length possessed highly varied cigarette butt abundance, with
Bicknell Avenue leading as most polluted, possibly due to the presence
of more multi-unit complexes.
Butt abundance on Bicknell Avenue was higher in the one meter strip
of street bordering the curb compared to the same surface area of
Conversely, Bay Street had more butts on the sidewalk/parkway than in the street.
Breaking the data up per residence, the multi-unit building at 229
Bicknell Ave was the record polluter with 77 butts, 97 percent of which
were found in the street within one meter of the curb.
Corner residences that merge with Main Street had the next highest abundances ranging from 17 to 46 butts per property.
Other student projects, which focused on plankton, shore birds, and
sand crabs, were led by Samohi teacher Ingo Gaida and marine scientist
and Get Inspired Inc. founder, Nancy Caruso.
Students presented their research to all program participants and SMMUSD school board member, Ben Allen.
Splash into Science’s three teacher team was contracted by Sunny
International Exchange Inc., which establishes and facilitates youth
study abroad and professional development programs between China and the
Copyright © 2011 by Santa Monica Mirror. All rights reserved.