The Tobacco Product Waste Reduction Project works with local communities and governments in San Diego County to address tobacco product waste and help protect California’s neighborhoods and the environment.


In the Press:

Researchers from SDSU’s Tobacco Product Waste Reduction Project are collecting and mapping waste in 8 cities in San Diego County. Community members, including elected officials, are welcome to participate in the project, which aims to solve the problem of tobacco product waste that litters our streets, sidewalks, parks, and beaches. On Saturday, March 5, the SDSU team was joined by Chula Vista’s Mayor, Mary Salas, and staff member Karla Mendez, along with volunteers D’Rone Rivers and Ilwad Abdi. Read more by clicking on the article below.

Project funded by: California’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program

Principal investigator: Georg Matt, PhD

Have you ever noticed cigarette butts while walking through a parking lot, along the sidewalks, in parks, or at the beach? Cigarette butts are the most common form of tobacco product waste and they are everywhere. Even worse, cigarette butts are only one type of tobacco product waste! Other tobacco products, such as cigars, cigarillos, and smokeless tobacco create hazardous trash as well as e-cigarettes or vapes. Pods, pens, cartridges, and batteries contribute to the litter along with smoked and edible cannabis.

This waste is not just unsightly, it contains chemicals that are harmful to people, pets, and the environment. The Tobacco Product Waste Reduction Project works with communities to eliminate this toxic waste from their streets, sidewalks, parks, and beaches.

How the Tobacco Product Waste Reduction Project Works:


  1. Confirm eight cities for data collection.
  2. Introduce the project to each city’s leaders and residents.
  3. Select 120 city blocks for data collection.
  4. Invite volunteers to participate in the project.
  5. Train volunteers and staff in data collection methods.
  6. Conduct data collection events.
  7. Measure all tobacco product waste.
  8. Create neighborhood maps of tobacco product waste.
  9. Identify factors that contribute to distribution of tobacco product waste.
  10. Brainstorm solutions to reduce or eliminate the waste.

The project team wants your help to create solutions to reduce and ultimately eliminate this toxic waste in San Diego communities. Community organizations and concerned individuals are encouraged to volunteer!

Data collection began in July, 2021 in Carlsbad, Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos, Vista, San Diego, El Cajon, and Chula Vista. Project staff, assisted by volunteers, identify and collect tobacco product waste, create maps to show how the waste is distributed in the County, and and facilitate community discussions to develop sustainable solutions.

Keep scrolling.

Read our fact sheet to find out more.


For additional resources, including our Tobacco Product Waste Identification Guide and Directions for Community Mapping, click the button below.


Frequently Asked Questions

How harmful is the waste?

Unfortunately, this potentially hazardous waste creates safety risks for children, adults, pets, and our environment. Many of the chemicals in tobacco product waste are included on the Proposition 65 list because they are known to cause cancer and reproductive harm. People and pets come into direct contact with these chemicals when they encounter waste on streets, parks, playgrounds, and beaches.

There is also concern about the environmental exposure resulting from cigarette butts and tobacco waste products in rivers, creeks, lakes, and the ocean. Plastic cigarette filters degrade slowly, releasing toxic chemicals into the water. Tobacco is often exposed to pesticides and other chemicals during the growing process. These chemicals contaminate the water, fish, and recreational visitors to rivers, creeks, lakes, and beaches where tobacco waste exists.

Many tobacco waste products also enter storm drains and are washed directly out to the ocean. In recognition of this problem, the California Environmental Protection Agency will enforce requirements in 2030 preventing any items 5mm or greater (less than a ¼ inch, which includes cigarette butts) from entering storm drains.

Tobacco product waste is also persistent and costly to clean up. Regularly cleaning up tobacco product waste is estimated to cost America’s cities anywhere between $4 and $90 million annually.*

*Source: Online Simulation Model to Estimate the Total Costs of Tobacco Product Waste in Large U.S. Cities
J. E. Schneider, C. M. Scheibling, N. A. Peterson, P. Stigler Granados, L. Fulton and T. E. Novotny. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2020. Vol. 17 Issue 13 Pages 4705. Accession Number: doi:10.3390/ijerph17134705. https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/13/4705

How can community organizations get involved?
• Inform organization members, political leaders, and other stakeholders about the project and collection events in their neighborhoods.
• Organize a group of volunteers from your organization to get involved with data collection.
• Share the information about the project results with the organization’s members, the community-at-large, and other advocates through meetings and social media.
• Intentionally include tobacco product waste in environmental messaging. Invite the Tobacco Product Waste Reduction Project staff to speak at an organization meeting or community event.
Who can volunteer?
At this time, we are no longer training individual volunteers to assist with data collection. We welcome individual volunteers to particpate in upcoming community discussions.

We welcome all to join our effort, especially if you have a passion for creating a safe and livable environment, free of tobacco product waste. Please don’t forget to share your creative ideas about sustainable solutions.

What will volunteers do?
At this time, we are no longer training individual volunteers to assist with data collection. We welcome individual volunteers to particpate in upcoming community discussions.

• Complete a one-hour online orientation session and a three-to-four hour on-site volunteer training event.
• Participate in two (or more!) collection events in San Diego County
• Share information about the Tobacco Product Waste Reduction Project on social media
• Inform relatives and friends about the project
• Various other opportunities (depending on your skills and interests)

Can we volunteer as a group?
Yes. We have volunteer opportunities for groups of adults and older teens with supervision. Each collection team has a maximum number of participants, so if your group is very large, you may not have the opportunity to work together.
Can kids volunteer?
We may be able to accommodate volunteers younger than 18 if they are accompanied by an adult. Please contact our volunteer coordinator.
What about COVID?
SDSU follows all Public Health Department guidelines. Volunteers follow the same COVID guidelines as staff. The guidelines may be found here.
How can I sign up to volunteer?
If you are volunteering as part of a group, please fill out our sign-up form here. We will send details of the data collection day (including a navigation address and parking suggestions) for dissemination to the group. Before participating in data collection, please take 30 minutes to watch the online video orientation we have developed for you. You will receive additional training on the actual day of data collection. Thank you for your generosity and we look forward to meeting you!
Do volunteers receive a stipend?
No, unfortunately we do not have funding to offer stipends. However, we may assist with transportation costs to collection events, on a limited basis.

SDSUTEMProject@sdsu.edu