As the old adage goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure. But in this case, its the waste from countless smokers that one South Bay city considers to be valuable.
Los Altos is partnering with a New Jersey-based company to transform the waste that comes along with used cigarettes into park benches, plastic chairs and other useful products.
Here's how the recycling project works: Los Altos is first encouraging smokers to toss their cigarettes into any of the 12 receptacles that were recently installed in 10 city-owned parking lots throughout downtown. Once those receptacles are full, the cigarette butts will be shipped to TerraCycle. The company will then separate the filters from the paper and tobacco.
The paper and tobacco will be composted. The filters, which contain a synthetic fiber, will be converted into plastic pellets, which can then be used to create plastic lumber for park benches and seats, shipping pallets, ashtrays, and other industrial products.
Los Altos officials hope the project will encourage smokers to ditch their cigarettes appropriately instead of simply flicking them to the pavement.
Sarah Henricks with the city of Los Altos said that 1.69 billion pounds of cigarette butts end up as litter across the globe each year.
"It could be on the ground," she said. "It could be in your bushes as you're walking by. You know, people may just flick a butt somewhere. So we're really just trying to make a difference."