There are few things that disgust Applegate Valley resident Brandt Summers more than a cigarette butt crushed in the dirt or littering a sidewalk.

There are few things that disgust Applegate Valley resident Brandt Summers more than a cigarette butt crushed in the dirt or littering a sidewalk.

"It's ridiculous how you see them everywhere," he said. "People are really irresponsible."

Six months ago, Summers, 30, who also happens to be a smoker, set out to clean up his little corner of the world, one cigarette butt at a time.

The 2001 North Medford High School graduate began collecting cigarette butts from local restaurants and stores as part of a national recycling movement known as the Cigarette Waste Brigade created by TerraCycle, Inc. based in Trenton, N.J.

Since Summers began collecting the butts in 5-gallon containers left at several businesses in the area, he has gathered some 12,000 what TerraCycle refers to as "units of cigarette waste," he said.

That would include all the detritus from a cancer stick, including the butt, foil packaging and cellophane.

"I want to help the world starting with this valley," said Summers who, like others involved in the program across the county, is not paid for his efforts.

He currently has cigarette butt collection buckets at the McKee Bridge Restaurant along the upper Applegate River, two at Applegate River Lodge in the community of Applegate and one at Kelley's Greener Pastures in Ruch.

The plastic used in the filters is recycled into things such as plastic pallets for industrial use, while any remaining tobacco or paper is composted, said Jeff Kranz, spokesman for TerraCycle.

Since the program began in 2012, it has netted more than a ton of cigarette butts and related material, he said. That material isn't going into landfills or waterways, he added.

According to Keep America Beautiful, 65 percent of all cigarette butts are disposed of improperly, with cigarette waste accounting for 38 percent of all roadway litter across the nation.

The problem is that cigarette filters are not biodegradable and do not break down quickly, Kranz said. What's more, an estimated three trillion cigarette butts are littered annually, he added.

TerraCycle has teamed up with the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. to create the program, he explained. The tobacco firm pays all the shipping costs, he said, adding that one dollar is donated to the Keep America Beautiful campaign for every pound of cigarette waste received.

Recyclable materials include everything from ashes to rolling paper, from filters to loose tobacco pouches, he said. However, the cardboard packaging isn't accepted because that material can usually be recycled locally, he noted.

Recycling the cigarette butts is a huge step, Summers said.

"When I found out about this, I was ecstatic," he said. "It doesn't matter whether you smoke or not. Nobody likes cigarette butts around. I love doing this.

"I'm a smoker and I don't litter," he added. "At the end of the day, I've got 20 to 30 cigarette butts in my pocket that aren't necessarily all mine."

And they all go into a recycling bucket, he said.

He envisions creating a recycling station for cigarette butts and related materials.

"I'd really like to see other people and businesses in Southern Oregon get involved in this program," he said.

"This is all out-of-pocket for me," he added. "Anyone or organization out there willing to donate supplies — buckets, kitty litter, ash trays — would be much appreciated. I want to help get others involved in this as much as possible."

For more information on the program, see or email Summers at

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or