Every year in cities across the globe, volunteers come together to clean up the coastline. In one such clean-up in British Columbia, more than 270,000 cigarette butts were collected. In Australia, cigarette butts make up 50% of litter pollution. In fact, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are tossed worldwide every year, making them the world’s greatest litter problem and a serious threat to the environment.
After I heard a PSA aired on Virgin Radio 99.9 raising awareness about this cigarette butt problem, I decided to investigate. Here is what you need to know:
Cigarette butts are not biodegradable; they are made of plastic and take about 10-15 years to break down. It is estimated that one third of the global population smoke. If you smoke a pack and a half a day, this amounts to 10,000 cigarettes a year, which is the equivalent of 5 cubic litres of waste. Worldwide the annual global consumption of cigarettes produces 2,800,000,000 cubic litres of waste. That’s enough toxin to kill a water flea at .125 butts per litre or about one butt per two gallons of water. And don’t forget the thousands of species of wildlife that die from starvation, mistaking cigarette butts as a healthy and plentiful alternative.
Cigarette butt litter has increased since the ban on smoking indoors. Some cities like Windsor have a ButtsOut campaign, promoting the use of a personal ashtray. In Edmonton, the mayor is sick of the sight of cigarette butts everywhere and is considering a fine for smokers who litter.
Smokers, please, if you can’t butt out for your own sake, consider the environment. Temper the desire to toss your butts.