Are cigarette butts dangerous?

Cigarette butts are among the most dangerous and cunning forms of environmental pollution.

Dangerous because they are not biodegradable.

Cunning because very few people are aware of the harm they cause to our environment and to the health of the living creatures and the plants.

Cigarette butts contain an abundance of toxic chemical substances and plastic. They kill even those who do not smoke. They pollute the groundwater so in essence the water that we drink, our shores and our seas where they release their toxic chemicals.

They kill the fish, the birds and other animals that swallow them. They poison the environment and our food; they destroy silently and invisibly with the power of mass destruction weapons.

Scientists advise against dumping cigarette butts on the street or burying them in the sand at the beach. But this is not the solution, because through the common waste they end at normal rubbish dumps and are turned into active time bombs for the environment.


What do cigarette butts contain?

The core of most cigarette butts, the part looking like white cotton, is in fact a form of plastic called cellulose acetate. The filters have two layers that are made of paper or rayon. Chemicals are added to the cigarette paper to control the rate of burning and calcium carbonate is added as whitener. Conducted researches showed that a single cigarette in approximately seven liters of water is lethal for microorganisms that live in fresh and salt water.

Unfortunately, cellulose acetate decomposes very slowly. This process can last from 18 months to 15 years and the toxins pollute the ground and the water passages harming the organisms that come in contact with it. In addition, most of the filters are dumped with remains of tobacco attached to them causing further pollution to the environment with the nicotine that is poisonous.

Do we have to act?

Fortunately, the situation is reversible for the time being. The threat of the cigarette butts has to be eliminated. Awareness and action are demanded. Their recycling has been routed in many countries around the world.

Recycle the cigarette butts

More than 1.3 million tons of cigarette butts are produced every year. 40% of the garbage collected globally during beach cleaning is cigarette butts. In Greece, we produce around 22 billion cigarette butts, around 3,500 tons. We need to collect them in specific waste bins, specific indoor and outdoor ashtrays through CigaretCycle’s #gopafree project.

Through a specific process, plastic chemical products are produced from the filters and the remains of paper, tobacco and ash are composted and produce fertiliser.

What happens with the revenue and the donations?

Part of the revenue from the recyclable material that comes from the cigarette butts will be given for the purchase of spectacles and hearing aids for people in need, with aim to help them improve their living conditions and their senses.

The rest will be used for the operation and the actions of the organization.