University aims to clean up cigarette butts on campus

Jinae West

Girl scouts help with the effort at Tri-Towers

Among sleepy-eyed college students in sweatpants, smoking cigarettes and carrying takeout from Rosie’s, 13 girls ran around Tri-Towers in oversized purple latex gloves.

“How cute we are,” one girl said, clasping her hands together.

The girls are a troop of Girl Scouts who cleaned up cigarette butts in front of Tri-Towers Saturday afternoon as part of the university’s continuing effort to keep the campus clean.

Ryan Spellman, university recycling coordinator, helped to jump-start the project this year while looking for assistantships and a way to make a difference. He said groups of eight or more sign up to pick up cigarette butts for $100 an hour in particularly bad areas such as Tri-Towers, Eastway Center, the Business Administration Building and Satterfield and Bowman Halls. Girl Scouts is just one of the organizations that has agreed to do it. Fraternities and athletic teams are scheduled to help clean up, too.

“(The initiative) has been ongoing through some time and, through education and shared responsibility, I’m hoping we won’t have to spend much time with this,” said Thomas Dunn, director of operations for Campus Environment & Operations.

Spellman said the problem arose after the Ohio Smoking Ban passed in November 2006 and prohibited people from smoking within 20 feet of buildings.

“I didn’t even notice the problem when I first came to Kent,” Spellman said. “Smoking inside was OK, so it kind of curbed the problem, but if you go around and look at campus, it’s pretty bad. Tri-Towers is the worst between Koonce and Wright Halls. That’s where people sit, and throwing away their cigarette butts is just a habit. They don’t even think about it, and it’s becoming a growing concern, so we’re trying to catch it before it gets out of control.”

Girl Scouts troop leader Amber Imhoff said the amount of cigarette butts on campus surprised her.

“We walked out, and there was just so much,” she said.

The troop didn’t waste time getting started. Spellman supplied gloves and plastic bags, and soon the girls – second-, third- and fourth-graders dressed in bright pink and purple – began searching for cigarette butts behind flowerbeds and in between sidewalk crevices. They treated it like a scavenger hunt, shouting when they found anything they thought was significant: a penny, pencils, pens, an empty beer can.

“Is this a cigar?” one girl asked, lifting up a discarded cigarette butt.

Spellman said he hopes students will think twice before flicking their cigarette butts on the ground if they know a 7-year-old might be the one picking up after them.

“You know, guilt trip them,” he said. “Whatever gets people to pick (their cigarette butts) up and put them in the right place.”

A few students walking by Tri-Towers took notice.

Noelle Vinciguerra, freshman business major, asked some of the Girl Scouts what they were doing and thanked them for their hard work.

“What? Are you guys picking up our trash?” she said. “That’s so cute, thank you.”

Vinciguerra said she didn’t like that kids were cleaning up after college students, admitting later she was also guilty of flicking cigarette butts on the ground.

“I’m definitely not going to it now,” she said. “I see hundreds and thousands of cigarette butts here. It’s kind of gross.”

As a resident at Wright Hall, sophomore exploratory major Jordan Bartlett said she feels as if she’s the only person who uses the ashtrays in front of Tri-Towers, and littering is a problem that needed to be addressed.

“I think it’s annoying because you can’t walk around campus and not be bombarded by cigarette butts,” Bartlett said.

“I’m glad I didn’t have to do that when I was a Girl Scout,” she added. “People should just do it themselves.”

Contact buildings and grounds reporter Jinae West at [email protected].