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A cigarette butt receptacle in Fairview is broken and it doesn’t matter

September 23, 2016

The receptacle part of this City of Vancouver cigarette butt receptacle on West Broadway has disappeared.

The cigarette butt receptacle at the 99 B-Line bus stop on the south side of the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue is now only half what it was when it was originally installed sometime during the first week of August.


How the newly-installed cigarette butt receptacle looked seven weeks ago.

As of the evening of September 21, the top half of the receptacle (the part that actually holds the discarded butts) had completely disappeared, leaving only the pillar base.

I’m happy to report though, that a few smokers appear to have used what remains as a sort of impromptu ashtray for about seven waterlogged cigarette butts.

And after two days without a functional cigarette but receptacle, the south side of the 1400 block of West Broadway Avenue has not been especially (or even noticeably) covered in pesky cigarette butts.

Few cigarette butts, some flower petals and lots of gum

More flower fetals than cigarette butts littering the south sidewalk of 1400 West Broadway Ave.

More flower petals than cigarette butts litter the south sidewalk of 1400 West Broadway.

From where I was sitting today (a window seat in the the McDonald’s at 1482 West Broadway) the only things visibly littering the sidewalk were innumerable dull grey spots of gum and a few bright red and pink petals fallen from two flower baskets hanging a third of the way up a lamp pole sitting in front of the restaurant.

But this was before a group of yellow-vested street-sweeper-upers, armed with brooms, trash tongs and garbage pails came along—then most of the petals were gone.

The gum, unfortunately, can’t be swept up; it needs to be literally steamed and power-washed off the concrete—something that building owners in the 1400 block do a few times each year at their own cost.

The sweepers that I saw all wore yellow vests bearing the slogan “Keep Vancouver Spectacular” They were probably employed by the City of Vancouver rather than the South Granville Business Improvement Association.

The South Granville BIA, as part of its street beautification and maintenance program, provides both the hanging flower baskets, which shed their colourful petals on the sidewalks, as well as roving cleaning people who sweep up said petals.

The only thing a BIA wants littering its streets is shoppers

According to the association, its 2016 budget of $615,500—raised by a special tax levy of properties located within the boundaries of BIA—includes $99,537 for street beautification and maintenance.

This near-hundred grand pays for something like 4,200 plants, in the form of hanging summer flower baskets and year-round planters, as well as street banners and the removal of hundreds of graffiti tags from area properties.

It also employs clients of the Coast Mental Health Foundation to provide 1,500 hours-a-year of sidewalk litter clean up.

Hardly a  day goes by that I don’t see one or two of the South Granville BIA’s orange-vested street sweepers methodically patrolling and gathering up any and all trash off the sidewalks—including cigarette butts.

Notwithstanding the fact that businesses in the 1400 block of West Broadway also sweep up their front sidewalks, it has to be said, in addition, that there are simply less people than ever before walking the main streets of Fairview and smoking. Certainly the smokers who have switched to vaping no longer produce any cigarette butt litter.

So, for all the reasons listed above, the City of Vancouver needn’t rush to fix its damaged cigarette butt receptacle in the 1400 block of West Broadway. It’s both redundant and unnecessary.

If I thought that it would mean a bit more money to help address any number of real civic necessities, such as safe winter shelter spaces, or support services, for the largest homeless population in Vancouver’s history, I would say just remove the damned thing.

Where cigarette butts are a problem in the Fairview neighbourhood


One Fairview apartment building has provided this deluxe smoking area out back in the alley.

It occurs to me that in deprecating the presence of cigarette butts in the Fairview neighbourhood I have unintentionally but potentially committed what Catholic theologians refer to as a “sin of omission“. I haven’t been lying—I just haven’t been telling the whole truth.

Fact is, Fairview does have a bit of a problem with cigarette butts—but it’s in the back alleys and not along the main streets.

Near as I can tell, it’s been illegal for some years in Fairview to smoke inside certain residential multi-unit buildings, namely, apartment buildings.

All year long, from early morning through to after midnight, regardless of the weather, a random scattering of renters can seen standing around in the back alleys of Fairview. They usually stand near the recycling blue bin sets belonging to their apartment buildings and they smoke.

One (and only one) Fairview apartment building, located on the southwest corner of Hemlock Street and 10th Avenue, thought enough of its smoking tenants to include shelter for them (and a metal cigarette butt receptacle) when it came time a few years ago to build a new garbage gazebo to house the building’s dumpster and recycling blue bins.

A few other apartment buildings leave out tin cans or ashtrays but otherwise smokers have to make do, sheltering under roof overhangs and tossing their cigarette butts to the wind. It’s the building management that looks after any mess that its smoking renters make.

A solution in search of a problem

So on the one hand, the main streets of Fairview, such as South Granville Street and West Broadway Avenue, do not fill up with cigarette butts—if nothing else, paid sweepers and shopkeepers see that they don’t.

And on the other hand, nothing that the City of Vancouver does in the way of receptacles on the main streets helps one bit to reduce the neighbourhood’s only real problem with cigarette butt litter, which is in the back alleys. The high level of upkeep practiced by Fairview’s rental property managers is keeping that problem in check. Click the images to enlarge them.

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