Cigarette Butts Are The Most Polluting

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Cigarette Butts Are The Most Polluting
Graphic: © herbs-info.com. Image source – Pixabay (PD).

Worse even than plastic straws, food wrappers, beverage bottles, and plastic bags – cigarette butts (filters) are regarded as one of the most polluting items on our planet. According to National Geographic, trillions of cigarette filters (over 2 billion pounds of waste) are casually flung into the environment annually, leading to devastating environmental effects.


What makes Cigarette Butts Harmful

Contrary to popular opinion, conventional cigarette butts are not easily biodegradable. They are made from a plastic known as cellulose acetate, which takes several years to degrade. [1] As shown in a 2010 study, the littered cigarette butts also contain tons of chemicals (some of which as known carcinogens) that are harmful to various lifeforms. [2]


According to a study published in the Journal of Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, “littered cigarette filters reduce growth and alter short-term primary productivity of terrestrial plants.” [3] And as shown by this disturbing image, the butts are also hazardous to birds and marine life. [4] Aside from their negative effects on the flora and fauna, cigarette butts are an eyesore in our waterways, beaches, parks, and streets.

The Concept of Eco-Friendly Butts

Despite the increasing consumer awareness of the health repercussions of cigarette smoking and the enforcement of strict laws against cigarette manufacturing around the globe, the number of smokers is still staggering. Nearly 18 billion cigarettes are bought every day. [5]

Judging from the prevalence of cigarette smoking and the significant environmental and ecological impact of littered buds, the need to find a sustainable solution is more important than ever. With this in mind, a group of entrepreneurs developed eco-friendly cigarette filters (known by the brand name ‘Karma’) that decompose within a month, before sprouting into different varieties of trees.

The butts are made from a sustainable biodegradable pulp with seeds safely embedded into the paper. For those who are unable or unwilling to give up, after you’re done puffing on your cigarette, mindfully dispose of the filter and leave it to sprout new life.


References:

[1] Comparison of cellulose vs. plastic cigarette filter decomposition under distinct disposal environments https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956053X17308474?via%253Dihub.

[2] THE CHANGING CIGARETTE, 1950-1995 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/009841097160393.

[3] Cigarette butts have adverse effects on initial growth of perennial ryegrass (gramineae: Lolium perenne L.) and white clover (leguminosae: Trifolium repens L.) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0147651319307481?via%3Dihub.

[4] Disturbing Photo Shows a Black Skimmer Feeding a Cigarette Butt to Its Chick https://www.audubon.org/news/disturbing-photo-shows-black-skimmer-feeding-cigarette-butt-its-chick.

[5] Cigarette butts are toxic plastic pollution. Should they be banned? https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/08/cigarettes-story-of-plastic/.


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