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Covington officials hate cig butts and they cannot lie - so they're doing something about it

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The city of Covington is increasing its efforts to reduce littered cigarette butts by doubling the number of city-provided urns from 23 to 46, handing out rubberized pocket ashtrays, and continuing its awareness campaigns in bars and restaurants.

"Cigarette butt litter — it's everywhere," said Sheila Fields, solid waste and recycling coordinator. "It's on the ground. It's unsightly. And it's a hazard to the natural environment. So we wanted to take action, and figure out a way to change the behavior of smokers."

The city set up its first urns in 2019. Volunteers from the Cigarette Litter Prevention Program Planning Committee gathered data from eight areas in Mainstrasse before and after urns were distributed.

"We would organize and go out after work as a team with our buckets and our grabbers in our safety vest," Fields said. "And we would collect the cigarette butts in the focus area, and then we would count them."

It was slow going at first, but eventually, the amount of cigarette butt litter decreased almost 50% in focus areas in less than two years.

Currently, about 15 urns are located in bars and restaurants while others are at bus stops and other high-traffic areas. Cigarette urns usually cost about $100, but were given to the city by Keep America Beautiful because Keep Covington Beautiful is an affiliate.

Fields says anyone can request to get one of the new urns by contacting Keep Covington Beautiful at

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.