Cigarette Butts: One Huge Problem, Two Solutions

Warning: This post contains some big statistics. According to ButtsOut, the world annually discards about 4.3 trillion cigarette butts. By some estimates, 30% of all cigarettes smoked end up as litter, and although small in themselves, can create over 500,000 tonnes of pollution per year. Traditional butts are made of "synthetic polymer cellulose acetate" and never degrade, only breaking apart after roughly 12 years. Yet within an hour of contact with water, cigarette butts can begin leaching chemicals such as cadmium, lead and arsenic into the marine environment. And that's not counting for the fact they also end up in in the intestines of "fish, whales, birds and other marine animals". So what to do? New Scientist recently reported on a British company, Stanelco, who through the takeover of an European company, think they might have an answer: ...... the biodegradable butt. Calling it the 'green' butt is a bit of stretch, somewhat like the proverbial enviro-friendly landmine. But nevertheless it is a step in the right direction. Made of food grade starch, such as found in potatoes and rice, it apparently decomposes within two months. Some are concerned however, that such a development might indeed increased cigarette litter, if smokers now believe nature will take responsibility for disposing of their waste. Remember, as we've said many a time, with regard to biodegradable plastics -- a micro-organism rich compost environment is required for their decomposition. Street gutters and roadside verges are not such places.

So another group have, who believe butt pollution is best solved directly with smokers themselves, have developed a funky little, palm sized, portable ashtray. Made of heat resistant ABS plastic, it lasts about 12 months and is reusable for that time. Shaped like butt(ocks) it hopefully encourages the correct disposal of these pesky pollutants, biodegradable, or otherwise. ::New Scientist and ::Butts Out