Spring 2014
Trash to Treasure

Shredded cigarette filters are recycled with other materials to yield an end product that can be used in a number of ways.

It’s not very hard to picture a bench at the shopping center being made from industrial plastic pallets. Now imagine that same plastic pallet being made from recycled cigarette butts. That seemingly remote possibility is becoming increasingly real thanks to a national initiative, The Cigarette Waste Brigade. In special partnerships, shopping centers across the country are getting in on the act.

Pier Park, a popular open-air shopping destination in Panama City Beach, FL, is one of the early adopters. The center, which has more than 125 retail and dining choices, teamed up with TerraCycle, the brains behind the Brigade, to clean up cigarette butts from the center. “Pier Park is committed to doing its part to keep cigarette waste out of area landfills, waterways and off Panama City Beach streets,” says Brent Gardner, General Manager. Pier Park is a popular shopping destination with more than 125 popular retail and dining choices

Logistics implementation

Cigarette-Infograph-2The process is pretty straightforward: Pier Park collects all the cigarette butts from trash receptacles and smoking towers located around the property, places the waste in boxes, prints a shipping label provided by TerraCycle and sends the contents to TerraCycle for recycling. For its part, TerraCycle sterilizes the cigarette filter before shredding them. The shredded filters are then added to other recycled materials and pelletized to be used for injection
molding or extrusion. Tobacco, separated from the filters, is sent on for composting.

While this partnership does not add ancillary income to the center, it does generate a lot of goodwill in the community. Pier Park adds to the green marketing message by donating a dollar to Keep America Beautiful for every pound of waste sent to TerraCycle.

Collected-Butts-copyLauren Taylor, Director of U.S. Public Relations at TerraCycle says the long-term prognosis for this cigarette-waste recycling program is very good. “People are becoming more and more aware of the human impact on the planet and are taking steps to protect it for future generations,” Taylor adds. Getting involved in the Cigarette Waste Recycling Brigade is easy – organizations and individuals over 21 simply sign up on TerraCycle’s website. “We have many individuals and organizations trying to reduce the amount of cigarette waste ending up as litter or in landfills,” Taylor says. While two malls, including Pier Park, have signed on to the program, Taylor is close to signing on 15 more.

As part of its green efforts, Pier Park also recycles all cardboard and is looking for more opportunities in the field. For his part Gardner is delighted with his shopping center’s partnership. “Teaming up with TerraCycle seemed like a natural fit and we’re proud to be part of this innovative nationwide recycling effort,” he says. “This partnership exemplifies our dedication to creating a more sustainable environment both locally and nationally for generations to come.”

For more information about Terracycle, please visit For more information about Pier Park, please visit


Poornima Apte

Poornima Apte is a Boston-area freelance writer and editor specializing in retail and the book publishing industry. Learn more at
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