September 23, 2020


Cigarette butts: the main source of sea and ocean pollution

On the occasion of World Maritime Day, we decided to tell you a little more about the impact of smoking on the environment. According to a study published by NBC news, cigarette butts are the main source of ocean pollution.

Cigarette butts are a more harmful source of pollution than plastic bags, according to a study published by NBC News in 2018. Some frightening figures emerge. For example, for 32 consecutive years, cigarette butts have been the most collected object on the world's beaches, with a total of more than 60 million collected over those 32 years. This represents about a third of all collected objects - plastic packaging, containers, bottle caps, kitchen utensils and bottles, combined.

Cigarette butts a major source of pollution: some figures

  • In France, every year, 30 to 40 million cigarette butts are thrown on the ground, 40% of which end up in the wild.

  • These butts thrown ashore end up in rivers and then in the oceans. Knowing that a single cigarette butt can pollute up to 500 liters of water, the repercussions of this type of waste on a global scale on water resources are catastrophic.

  • Cigarette butts account for 40% of the waste recovered in cities and on beaches during international clean-up campaigns. It is the most common garbage collected from the world's beaches.

  • According to NBC news, the waste often disintegrates into microplastics that are easily consumed by wildlife. Researchers have found litter in about 70 percent of seabirds and 30 percent of sea turtles.

But why are cigarette butts more polluting than plastic bags or straws?

Butts are difficult to recycle

The products contained in a cigarette

Cigarettes contain about 4,000 chemical compounds, at least 50 of which are carcinogenic. These include tar, nicotine, heavy metals, phenols, etc. These substances are contained in the filter of the cigarette, which, once thrown on the ground, end up in the sewers and contaminate the water.

The composition of the filter

It takes about 12 years for a cigarette butt to disappear. This is mainly due to cellulose acetate, a plastic that takes more than 10 years to decompose and which is one of the main components of the filter.

The number of smokers in the world

Around 1.1 billion people smoke in the world which means that 136,000 cigarette butts are discarded every second in the world.

According to Imperial College of London, a person who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day for 50 years will have indirectly used 1.4 million liters of water for their consumption.

The solutions

More and more companies are trying to overcome this problem by proposing solutions to recycle cigarette butts, from clothing to pencil jars or ashtrays. But many organizations are in favor of eliminating cigarette filters, a radical solution to eradicate this source of pollution. However, this decision has never been accepted.

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