Carter County youth pick up ‘thousands’ of cigarette butts in weekend cleanup

In the span of a single hour, more than a dozen students found and cleaned up four jars worth of cigarette butts from four different parks in Elizabethton this past weekend, a project they said highlights the need for positive change in the community.

Eighth-grader McKenna Marr with the Carter County Drug Prevention Youth Board said they first began to identify and work towards solving this kind of littering when Elizabethton Parks and Recreation came to them to look for a solution.

“We went out with Ziploc bags,” Marr said. “We cleaned up thousands of cigarette butts.”

The issue first came to their attention back in March, when the county commission was considering opting into upcoming state legislation banning smoking on public playgrounds.

What originally started as a piece of Knox County legislation turned into a state-wide bill, with various cities and counties pledging individual support.

Carter County was unable to reach a majority on the motion during their full commission meeting in March, so the county did not opt-in.

With the bill recently passing both the state House and Senate, CCDP’s youth board decided the issue was still worth working on.

“I think it is a pretty big issue,” Marr said.

She said roughly 15 to 20 students participated, breaking up into groups to clean up their local parks.

“People do not have a lot of respect,” she said. “People should be careful where they smoke.”

Now that they have the jars, the decision then goes to what they are going to do with them. Marr said they might put them on display on the outside window sills of their office, to let people see how serious the issue is in their community.

Director Jilian Reece said they plan to go back to the county commission in October to see if there is some form of action the county can do to help curb this kind of littering.

“This is not as much about the bill as it is the people who come to us,” Reece said.

As for the cleanup itself, Marr said she would love doing more regular cleanups like it.

“It was definitely eye-opening,” Marr said.

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