Looking back from the future, tomorrow's historians may struggle to understand the bizarre happenings of the early 21st century.
By Peter Ormond
Published September 28, 2007
Today we will discuss a bizarre societal trend that spread like wildfire throughout the world. Similar to the demise of the dryer and re-birth of clothes drying racks discussed in the last issue of Green Reflections, the Butt Pinching Syndrome also began in Hamilton, Canada.
In fact, just as Italy's Florence was the foundation for the historic Renaissance Period, Hamilton was emerging as the global leader in the Proactive Period. Here is another example to validate that trend.
In 2006, a fellow in Hamilton's historic north end, Ormond, wrote an article outlining the merits of putting a five cent deposit on cigarette butts. Cigarettes were small tubes filled with tobacco and other addictive chemicals that people lit, and inhaled through small compact cellulose filters, also known as "butts". Cigarettes were held by pinching this filtered end.
After the tobacco was diminished, the remaining cigarette butt was flicked or thrown onto the ground. Measures were in place including littering laws and specific containers for cigarette butt disposal. However, until that time, disposal on the sidewalk, garden, lawn or even out car windows was considered 'normal' and acceptable.
During this period, individuals and governments were finally acknowledging the obvious connections between cigarettes, cancer and addiction. Numerous lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers were in progress, and placing a deposit upon cigarette butts seemed to be a proactive and sustainable mechanism to alleviate cigarette issues.
In general, cigarettes removed 15 years from the typical lifespan and were damaging to one's vitality. Trademark symptoms included hollowed cheeks, yellow teeth, wrinkles, premature disease and reduced body mass. These are some reasons why cigarettes were ultimately banned globally by 2050.
Even in 2007, 1.3 billion of the world's population smoked an average of 1,600 cigarettes per person per year. With a stunning cost of 40 cents per cigarette, this translated to a whopping annual market of 800 Billion dollars. That's 2.4 trillion cigarette butts each year sprinkling the earth, building upon the previous year's deposits.
The five cent deposit concept literally (not litter-ally) solved a problem while putting money into people's pockets. Soon legislation was passed in Canada, the EU, then globally, to make deposits on cigarette butts mandatory. All collected butts would be counted using high-tech devices and then processed through an accelerated composting process that removed any harmful chemicals. The final product would be high quality garden mulch.
Initially people scoffed at the concept of a program to control their cigarette stubs. However, others became proactive. Stiff fines were created to target littering. Then non-profit organizations began setting up special 'piggy bank' donation boxes to allow deposit of this lucrative waste.
To reduce back injuries, special devices or "butt pinchers" were designed to pick up these waste tidbits. Some collectors were so successful that they wore tuxedos and drove BMW's loaded with bags of cigarette butts to retail outlets.
In fact, the art of collecting butts, also known as "buttology", ignited society. Differentiating characteristics included butt size, lipstick stains, bite marks, aroma and length. Butt auctions, conventions, buttology courses, and mining of old landfills to recover historic specimens occurred. Museums were even established.
However, as cigarettes were ultimately banned, the era of buttology lost momentum. Wind from the butt movement evaporated into thin air and this trend went the way of the clothes dryer appliance.
The next topic will be home gardening. To pique your interest, at one time humans took pride in maintaining homogeneous grass lawns in the front and back yards. Maintenance tasks included watering, cosmetic pesticide applications, weeding and weekly cutting.
Again, with the onset of the Proactive Period, diverse organic gardens of vegetables and plants sprouted up on all green spaces. A local food supply resulted, and time and energy was redirected to pursue other activities within the community.
Yes, we could chuckle loudly at the irresponsibility of the early 21st century. However, at least they nipped the end of the butt, er bud.
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