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Opinion: Cigarette butts pile up as receptacles removed

Opinion: Cigarette butts pile up as receptacles removed

By Nora Lubin
Opinion Editor

Here at Harold Washington College, there has been a long-standing precedent for accommodating cigarette smoking. A thick yellow line can be seen on the sidewalks outside the entrance to the school, marking the points that smokers must stay behind, in accordance with Illinois State Law regulations. 

For years–and since the time I began attending HWC–a silver cigarette disposal receptacle has been made available for students who smoke. Since the beginning of this 2017 Spring semester, that receptacle has been absent from school grounds, and students have begun to leave cigarette butts scattered around the entrance. 

What HWC might not know is that both the actions of the college and that of the students are punishable under a 2014 amendment to the Illinois State Law’s Litter Control Act of 1974, making it illegal to litter cigarettes, as well as to fail to provide proper cigarette disposal receptacles. 

According to Section 4 of the LCA, any person who disposes of a cigarette on the ground of any public or private property may be subject to a Class B misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,500. After the first offense, the crime becomes a Class A misdemeanor, and, upon the third offense, that person may be convicted of a felony. 

As for the administration, the Litter Control Act might be something they should look into as well. According to Section 10: “the owner or person in control of any property which is held out to the public as a place for assemblage, the transaction of business, recreation or as a public way shall cause to be placed and maintained receptacles for the deposit of litter, of sufficient volume and in sufficient numbers to meet the needs of the numbers of people customarily coming on or using the property.”

This law applies to both private and public ownership of property in which littering is illegal. Not only is the outside entrance of HWC a public way, but the school itself is a public institution. This means that Harold Washington College’s administration may be subject to a petty offense and fine.  

In a direct violation of the Litter Control Act, the school has taken away cigarette receptacles, and has now made cigarette waste disposal the responsibility of another system–one some might find morally objectionable. 

Day in and day out, I see one man from Harold Washington College’s custodial staff literally cleaning up after students. He sweeps the cigarette butts from the sidewalks as students put them out on the ground, and from the street, where students frequently throw them, and in which sewer water tends to accumulate. 

HWC student Ashley Miller says this man’s name is James. “He cleans very thoroughly. He comes out here and cleans.” 

Miller has been a student here for two years, and told me that he has never once seen the cigarette disposal receptacle removed from the school entrance area. 

When asked to share his thoughts on the matter, Miller asserted, “I’d rather there be a disposal [receptacle], because it still gives people the option to make it less work on James.” 

When I asked James for a comment, he seemed overwhelmed, and told me how busy he was. It is safe to say that James has a lot to deal with on a daily basis; HWC is a large school, and, judging by the number of people I see littering their cigarette butts daily, students are not always conscientious. 

The administration must make efforts to remedy this unjust and unlawful situation. It is the college’s responsibility to not only protect itself from legal action, but its students as well. It is the college’s responsibility to comply with environmental safety acts, so as to ensure the health of our city. It is the college’s responsibility to ensure that James no longer has to do this tedious work. And, above all, it is the college’s responsibility to provide its students, staff, and administrators a clean and safe environment for education. 

So far, the administration could not be reached for comment.

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