PORTLAND, Maine (NECN) - Redemption programs have dramatically reduced the amount of bottles and cans that go into the waste stream.
Now a restaurant owner in Portland wants to do the same with cigarette butts.
Mike Roylos says he's tired of dealing with butts outside the Spartan Grill.
"They're everywhere. I sweep. They come back. Customers track them in on their shoes," laments Roylos.
When the city's new smoking ordinance failed to stop the butt barrage, Roylos decided to take matters into his own hands. .
He came up with the "No Butts Now" campaign.
He supplies a basket of baggies for the public to collect cigarette butts in Monument Square.
Using donations from grateful customers, Roylos will buy the butts back for five cents a piece,
Sure, it's a little gross..but a nickel's a nickel
Billy O'Rourke lives a few blocks away at the Oxford Street Shelter and he went right to work as soon as he heard about the campaign. .
"It's an opportunity for us homeless guys to be a productive part of society and make a few extra dollars, said O'Rourke.
They may be tiny, but those butts add up.
According to Keep America Beautiful, butts are the most prevalent form of litter in the United States.
Worldwide they add 1.7 billion pounds to the waste stream.
And because Portland is on the water, many of those toxic cigarette ends end up in Casco Bay.
"When we do coastal clean ups, it hits you in the face, how many there are," says Joe Payne, the Baykeeper with Friends of Casco Bay. "I applaud what they're doing. It's a great idea."
Roylos plans to start doling out nickels Thursday afternoon outside the restaurant, starting at 3:30.
"Basically like the gold rush in the 1800's, you have an Assayer and the miners coming down from the mountain with their their gold and they weigh it," says Roylos.
And Billy O'Rourke is in for a good payday.
An afternoon's work netted him two large plastic bags worth of butts.
Mike Roylos is happy too because for the first time in years, his Portland storefront won't be littered with someone else's discarded cigarettes.
What will he do with them all you may ask?
They'll be shipped to Terracycle, a New Jersey based company that specializes in hard-to-recycle waste.