New ashcans installed along outer Balboa to reduce cigarette butt litter

Volunteers installed ashcans along outer Balboa to help reduce cigarette butt littering. Photo by Shelly Martinez.

After cleaning up 6,000 cigarette butts from outer Balboa in March, a group of seven volunteers returned this week to install ashcans on several poles along Balboa between 34th and 38th Avenues.

The ashcans, provided by the Surfrider Foundation and paid for by the Richmond District Neighborhood Center (RDNC), allow smokers to dispose of their waste safely and cleanly.

Butts are then collected from the ashcans by the RDNC and shipped to a company called TerraCycle in New Jersey, where they are recycled.

The cigarettes and packaging are separated by composition and melted into hard plastic that can be remolded to make new recycled industrial products, such as plastic pallets. The ash and tobacco are separated out and composted in a specialized process.

Four ashcans were installed in spots where the most butts were collected during the March cleanup along outer Balboa: outside La Promenade Cafe, in front of Hockey Haven, near the Balboa Theater, and near a strip of businesses that include Eat Americana, Kio Ramen, and Balboa Deli.

Each ashcan has signage in English, Chinese and Vietnamese, telling smokers to dispose of their cigarette butts in the cans. Volunteers plan to install two more ashcans along outer Balboa if these initial four are well utilized and prove to reduce cigarette butt litter.

“The installation was a success!” said volunteer Pawel who sent us photos from the installation event. “I must say, of all the things I’ve done [to clean up our neighborhood], this feels the most rewarding.”

Thanks to Surfrider, the RDNC, Pawel and all the volunteers who help to keep our neighborhood clean (and help the environment along the way!).

Sarah B.

Photo by Shelly Martinez

Photo by Shelly Martinez

Photo by Shelly Martinez


  1. Great initiative
    Is there a reason the Chinese on the ashcans are in Simplified Chinese rather than Traditional Chinese?

  2. Yes, we felt simplified Chinese would be more accessible to a larger group than traditional Chinese. Thank you for your interest.

  3. This is so great. Thanks for your effort. I hope the disgusting people who don’t care about the health of other people on the street actually use these. Smokers are the worst and I can’t wait until it’s banned from public places.

  4. I support this simple, proactive idea and thank you so much for making it a reality. I don’t hate people who smoke, rather the concern is with litter and animals. Thanks to the smokers who are responsible with how they act. I’m going to look into if there is more we can do to get involved with this project. Great pics with the article too!

  5. Can you get some of those on Geary BLvd? between 25th Ave and 30th ? Lots of butts.

  6. These are great, can we get them install in Inner Balboa also?

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