HomeCinnaminson News'A clean community is better for all'

‘A clean community is better for all’

Cinnaminson man makes it his business to pick up cigarette butts

Kathy Chang/The Sun
James Alturo of Cinnaminson donates 1 cent for every cigarette butt he picks up to the American Lung Association.

For James Alturo, it started with a counting challenge: How many cigarette butts would he pick up from last winter through the end of the year along Route 130 and Branch Pike?

“My goal was 15,000,” the former Palmyra resident and retiree said. “I figured that’s a lot. I started in February with only 11 months. It’s 1,000 a month.”

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For the counting challenge – fittingly dubbed Jim’s Cigarette Butt Challenge – Alturo decided to donate 1 cent for every cigarette butt collected. By August and September, he was up to 15,000, and a new goal was set.

“I’ll make it 18,000 … I passed that goal,” Alturo noted, adding his goal is to eventually pass 23,000. “I wasn’t sure if I would make it to 24,000 because it was December and it’s cold.”

By the end of 2023, Alturo had collected 24,185 butts. The resulting donation went to the American Lung Association.

He and his wife moved into the Siena Luxury retirement community along Route 130 in Cinnaminson in 2020, after about 20 years in neighboring Palmyra.

“We found this a beautiful community and we moved in,” he said.

But despite the community’s beauty, Alturo kept noticing trash.

“After a couple of weeks,” he recalled, “I realized there was no way we as seniors could create this much trash.”

And after some investigating, Alturo came to the conclusion that the refuse – including cigarette butts – was probably being thrown from cars along Route 130.

“Along with cigarette butts, I pick up nails, bolts and glass,” he explained. “In theory, (these items) could impact a car and cause a flat tire. I feel like I’m doing more than just picking up trash. I’m preventing folks from having an accident or a flat tire.”

And after some reminiscing about his time in the U.S. Air Force and learning about the dangers of cigarette smoking, Alturo decided the American Lung Association would be his cause.

“Years ago at work, they brought a doctor in to try to convince those who smoke to consider slowing down or stopping,” the veteran recalled, noting the impact stayed with him. “They showed a movie about the impact of smoking cigarettes on the lungs and how many years afterwards – even if you quit – it stays on your lungs.”

Alturo is grateful for the touching notes and messages – along with a knitted scarf and hat – he received from neighbors and friends for his cleanups last year. The American Lung Association provided him a yellow vest to wear on his rounds.

This year, Alturo is continuing his effort with a new goal: exceeding or reaching 35,000 butts. As of Feb. 21, he had 7,836. His American Lung Association website has exceeded $2,000 and continues to grow.

In retirement, Alturo dedicates his time to paying it forward each day. He spends time volunteering at the South Jersey Food Bank and continues to pick up trash in his community and along Route 130 and Branch Pike.

He even came up with a slogan: “See trash, pick it up, all day. You’ll have good luck.”

“I’m hoping to make the public aware and spur others to take action and help clean up,” Alturo observed, adding that he hopes to work with officials in Cinnaminson and neighboring towns on the cleanup effort.

“A clean community is a better world for all.”


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