May 27, 2013

Cigarette butts again litter Monument Square

The owner of the Spartan Grill considers his cleanup effort a failure but says he is working on a solution.

By Beth Quimby bquimby@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND - They're back.

click image to enlarge

Cigarette butts were a problem before the owner of the Spartan Grill on Monument Square tried a cleanup effort and they remain a problem after his attempt.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Four weeks after a downtown restaurant owner launched a campaign to get cigarette butts off the street, the unsightly stubs have resprouted.

Mike Roylos, owner of the Spartan Grill, financed a two-day butt pickup earlier this month, offering 5 cents a butt during a two-day social experiment. He came up with the No Butts Now! campaign after months of frustration over the proliferation of butts in downtown Portland despite a ban on smoking in public parks and within 20 feet of doorways and a $100 fine for tossing butts on the street.

About 30 young people participated, collecting 26,000 butts on May 1 and 2. Roylos said even though he could only pay for $320 worth of butts, participants didn't complain.

"They were cool and said they wanted to do it again," said Roylos.

Within days of the pickup, Monument Square was once again littered with butts.

Roylos said while his one-man crusade raised awareness about the butt problem to some extent, he considers his social experiment a failure.

But Roylos is not is not giving up.

He said he has a new idea to clean up butts permanently that he will unveil during Maine Civic Hack Day -- held on June 1 and 2 in Portland and Bangor -- when people come up with technical solutions to community problems.

Organized by the Maine Hacker Club, the event leads up to the National Day of Civic Hacking. The Portland event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 1 and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 2 at Peloton Labs at 795 Congress St. The Bangor event is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 1 and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 2 at Eastern Maine Development Corp., 40 Harlow St.

The best solutions coming out of Maine Civic Hack Day go on to the national level.

Roylos said any permanent solution to the butt problem will require stopping a never-ending cycle.

"We have put a lot of thought in trying to figure out a better way," said Roylos.

Some Monument Square merchants say there is a simple solution to the problem. Kris Horton, president of the Public Market House and owner of K. Horton Speciality Foods, said the city should be responsible for the butts, not business owners who pay the city plenty of taxes.

"The city could put in very nice cigarette disposals and make it a positive thing and not a burden on small shop owners," said Horton.

Meanwhile, Roylos is doing research on the 26,000 butts that were collected, enough to fill an 18-square-inch box, before sending them off to TerraCycle, a Trenton, N.J., company that converts butts into plastic pellets.

He won't reveal the nature of the research because it is part of his new idea for ridding public places of cigarette butts.

"It is going to be pretty neat. This little town is going to be on the forefront of something," said Roylos.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

bquimby@mainetoday.com

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