BRADENTON -- After Keep Manatee Beautiful began installing cigarette bins in Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Palmetto in 2009, smoking-related litter decreased from about 11,000 items in 2007 to 6,000 in 2011.
They're hoping after the installation of 120 more cigarette disposal bins in Manatee County by July that that number will decrease even further.
Keep Manatee Beautiful received a grant of $7,500 from Keep America Beautiful to install the bins. It is using the money to buy 60 of the bins for the city and 30 for Manatee County, with the county buying an additional 30 using its own budget.
"The city of Bradenton found that this is a need of theirs, and they asked if we could apply for a grant for them to have a cigarette litter prevention program for the city of Bradenton and downtown at the Riverwalk," Ingrid McClellan, executive director of Keep Manatee Beautiful, said Wednesday. "And Manatee County the very same week saw that since the older models of stainless steel were not holding up very well, they asked if we could pursue grants to purchase a more durable model, and they're the ones that found this particular model."
The bins cost $57 for a plain aluminum model and $78 for a brushed model, which blends in more with beach and sidewalk textures. The bins for Bradenton will be in entirely new areas, while the ones in Manatee County are replacing the stainless steel models.
"The older bins were not holding up to the salt environment," McClellan said.
The new bins are supposed to be extremely durable and require little upkeep. They can hold about 750 cigarettes each while full, despite their small size.
"(They are) completely weatherproof, windproof and fireproof, this cigarette receptacle is made of solid 1/16 thick seamless aluminum and has a large capacity and is easy to empty due to a smartly designed security locking system," read a press release from McClellan. "Satin brass models cannot tarnish and, therefore, never need polishing."
The lids are screwed down so locals cannot attempt to empty the bins. Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said that was an issue with the old bins, because some people would dump them out to find old cigarettes they could smoke further, causing more litter.
"This helps us keep the Riverwalk and downtown cleaner," Poston said. "We want to make sure smokers have areas to properly dispose of things, particularly the filters, because those last forever."
Cigarettes take seven to 25 years to break down and contain chemicals that can kill wildlife, especially if those chemicals get in the water. If an animal eats cigarette butts, they can block the digestive tract or fill its stomach, causing malnutrition or starvation.
Installation already began at the Palma Sola Causeway and Anna Maria Island, and McClellan is just waiting on color choices from city officials before ordering more for the Riverwalk and Old Main Street areas. Officials said they would try to reach a decision at a meeting Thursday so McClellan could place the order by Monday.
All bins should be installed by the beginning of July, if the timeline goes according to plan. To measure the bins' effectiveness, Keep Manatee Beautiful will perform scans for smoking-related litter before the bins are installed and eight weeks after installation.
In 2007, smoking-related litter accounted for 40 percent of total litter in Manatee County, according to Keep Manatee Beautiful. That percentage stayed the same in 2011, but total litter decreased from 27,687 items to 15,150 items. Florida's smoking-related litter accounted for 46.4 percent of all litter in 2007 and 40.3 percent in 2011.