06/17/2013 11:54 EDT

Cigarette Butt Pickup Program Succeeds In Vancouver

FILE - An ashtray full of cigarette butts is shown in Omaha, Neb., in this March 28, 2007 file photo. More work needs to be done to keep young Americans from using tobacco, including creating smoking bans and increasing taxes on tobacco products to deter youth, the U.S. Surgeon General's office said in a report released Thursday March 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

A group of Vancouverites is stepping up its demand for a provincewide deposit program for cigarette butts after a pilot project picked up about 60,000 discarded smokes on Sunday.

A group calling itself West End Cleanup carried out the initiative during the community's Car Free Day on Sunday, offering a penny for every cigarette butt that was turned in, The Province newspaper reported.

Working on a $500 budget with a grant from the Vancouver Foundation, the group collected 52,000 butts in three hours and later took in 8,000 more using extra funds.

Organizer John Merzetti told the newspaper that the butts will be turned over to TerraCycle, an Ontario recycling company that turns the discarded cigarettes into products such as pallets.

Volunteer Miguel Araiza picked up two pounds worth of cigarette butts in three hours and earned $11 for his trouble, Metro News Vancouver reported.

A former smoker, he told the newspaper that getting rid of discarded cigarettes is an important social issue because they're essentially "ads for tobacco companies."

Dr. Stuart Kreisman, an endocrinologist at St. Paul's Hospital and organizer with West End Cleanup, said that turning in cigarette butts would work the same way that bottle return systems do, reducing environmental hazards in exchange for money, News1130 reported.

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