Over the past several years a lot of attention has been brought to the amount of trash that is ending up in our world’s oceans. We have seen straw bans happening around the world and bans on single-use plastic bags as well. There has been a concerted effort to make single-use cutlery compostable or even edible. Although this is a huge step in the right direction and something that we should continue to do, there is one pollutant that should be in the spotlight as it is the single greatest source of ocean trash – cigarette butts.
For some reason, this small, but ubiquitous source of trash has mostly avoided any form of regulation. This soon could change if a committed group of activists has a say.
A tobacco industry academic, California lawmaker, and a worldwide surfing organization are among the growing number of people who are arguing that cigarette filters should be banned.
“It’s pretty clear there is no health benefit from filters. They are just a marketing tool. And they make it easier for people to smoke. It’s also a major contaminant, with all that plastic waste. It seems like a no-brainer to me that we can’t continue to allow this,” Thomas Novotny, a professor of public health at San Diego State University told NBC News.
A California assemblyman proposed an outright ban on cigarettes with filters but wasn’t able to get the proposal out of the committee. A state senator from New York has written legislation to create a rebate program for butts returned to redemption centres, but that idea is also on hold. San Francisco has propositioned for a 60 cent per pack increase to raise around $3 million annually to help to cover the cost of cleaning up these discarded butts.
Time To Tackle The Most Littered Item In The World
The Truth Initiative, one of the largest anti-smoking initiatives in the U.S. is doing everything it can to raise awareness around this issue. they use funds collected between state attorneys general and tobacco industries to deliver hard facts against smoking. The group used a nationally televised Video Music Awards show to launch a campaign against cigarette butts. The group is going against the hands down, “most littered item in the world.”
With 5.6 trillion cigarettes manufactured worldwide each year, the filters made from cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that takes a minimum of 10 years to decompose. An alarming two-thirds of those butts are dumped irresponsibly each year according to Novotny, who founded the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project.
Since 1982 the Ocean Conservancy has sponsored a beach clean-up. Each year, cigarette butts have been the most collected item on the beaches of the world. Over 60 million have been collected over that period of time. Out of all the plastic wrappers, eating utensils, bottles, containers, cigarette butts have accounted for one-third of all the trash collected.
Let’s not forget that these discarded filters contain synthetic fibres and hundreds of chemicals that are used to treat tobacco. Novonty is actively pursuing further research to see exactly what waste from cigarettes is leaching into the soil, streams, rivers, and oceans.
“More research is needed to determine exactly what happens to all of that,” said Nick Mallos, director of the Trash Free Seas campaign for the Ocean Conservancy. “The final question is what impact these micro-plastics and other waste have on human health.”
Do We Even Need Filters?
Filters were made in the mid-20th century to help mitigate growing concerns in regards to the health impacts of tobacco. It was determined that filters weren’t even able to control the carcinogenic compounds from smoking. Then “filters became a marketing tool, designed to recruit and keep smokers as consumers of these hazardous products,” according to research conducted by Bradley Harris, a graduate scholar in the history of science and technology at Stanford University.
How Can We Take Action?
Are you a smoker? If so it is up to you to take responsibility for the proper disposal of your butts. This may even be enough of a drawback from smoking that it may inspire you to quit. If not, there are many options available. One being, rolling your own cigarettes, and either just going filter-less or using a reusable, cleanable filter. The mass produced, chemical-laden, filtered cigarettes are hardly ideal. It is possible to get organically grown, additive free tobacco, which would be much less harmful to you.
What can you do to minimize your impact? Change starts with us! We can all do our part.
This article (Cigarette Butts Are The Single Most Littered Item On Our Planet) was originally published on Collective Evolution and is published under a Creative Commons license.