Improperly discarded cigarette butts constitute litter, but many cigarette smokers don’t realize this. So, what do they do? They finish smoking, and then they toss the butts out the car window. This goes into the stream or the lawn or the gutter. Instead of putting them in the trash in the nearest disposal bin.
Littered cigarette butts are swept by wind and runoff rain into nearby water bodies. The aquatic ecosystem gets contaminated by the toxic substances in the filters. This affects the quality of the water as well as marine life. The birds and fish mistake the cigarette butts for food and ingest them. Many researchers have attested to this.
One-third of all litter found in outdoor recreation areas, including parks, is made up of cigarette butts. About 85% of all cigarette filters are mindlessly flung to the ground. When we break that percentage down, 37% of these butts are thrown into shrubbery and bushes, 25% are dumped on or around an ash receptacle and 15% are thrown into planters.
When you dispose of cigarette filters improperly, you are doing some severe harm to societies and to the economy. It is plain unsightly to see cigarette butts gathered in water drains, around corners and along fences. The thing about litter is that it cheapensthe value of that property and its environment, and investors will be discouraged from taking up investment opportunities in the area.
It is important to note that cigarette butts are made of non-biodegradable material, material which has been proven through studies to take 10-25 years to breakdown. This material is plastic (cellulose acetate). Of the hundreds of billions of cigarettes sold each year, 99% have plastic filters and one-third of these are discarded into the environment.
These cigarette filters contain carcinogenic compounds like nicotine, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, arsenic and heavy metals. If it takes 10-25 years for these filters to breakdown, that’s time for these toxic chemicals to leach into the ecosystem. Possibly start an accidental fire, get picked up off the ground and eaten by children and animals. even kill any animal or child that eats them and cost the communities billions of dollars to do a cleanup.
Managing The Problem
It is illegal to litter the environment with cigarette butts. However, the penalties have done little to repress the behavior. Besides just penalties though, there are other ways we can help the situation. We can increase the number of easily accessible disposal bins in areas where people smoke. This will encourage them to dispose of filters, lighters and packaging properly. We can also organize awareness programs where we can sensitize smokers about the serious consequences of carelessly discarding cigarette butts in the environment. People in a community should take pride in their community and do the right thing.