Photo jasong106 via flickr.
According to data from the Ocean Conservancy, in 2009 more than 3 million cigarettes or butts were picked up internationally from beaches and inland waterways as part of the annual International Coastal Cleanup - 1 million from U. S. beaches alone, making them by far the most littered item. But that's just a fraction of the billions of pounds of discarded butts that degrade slowly, and leave unsavory residue that can harm fresh and saltwater fish.
Intrepid TreeHuggers have thought up a few ingenious uses for used butts, and now a Chinese research group (China is the world's largest producer of cigarettes) just devised a way to recycle cigarette butt juice, turning it into an effective anti-rust agent.Researchers including Jun Zhao and Ningsheng Zhang at Xi'an Jiaotong University took cigarette butts and soaked them in water for 24 hours, after which time the researchers could identify nine chemicals in the water, including nicotine.
The soaked-butt brew was then acidified and used to coat steel and found to be anti-corrosive. The researchers want develop a process for large-scale recycling, according to Chemical & Engineering News, but believe government help will be needed.
The challenge, of course, is to get together the estimated 4.5 trillion or more cigarette butts that are discarded each year, according to this article in Swedish Ny Teknik and to data from this site.
California is considering a smoking ban at state beaches and parks due to the risk of wild fires and to wildlife.
Read more about funky cigarette stuff at TreeHugger:
Cigarette Butts: One Huge Problem, Two Solutions
Recycle Cigarette Butt Clothing. No Kidding!
Artist Turns Cigarette Butts Collected by Street Cleaners into Woven Rug