Although they’re less than two-centimetres in length and weigh less than a gram, cumulatively cigarette butts contribute over 700,000 tonnes of waste every year. They are the most littered item in the world, with 4.5 trillion dropped year on year. Most commonly made of cellulose acetate, a type of bioplastic, cigarette butts take years, even decades, to break down. In this time, they continue to release nicotine, heavy metals, and other chemicals into our soil and water before eventually breaking down into microplastics.
Studies have shown the 7000+ chemicals produced by cigarette butts to be highly toxic to marine and other wildlife and there have been numerous instances where they have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, whales and other marine animals. But it’s not just the final product that has a negative impact on the environment: the production of tobacco uses up more water and wood, and has more pesticides applied to it, than most other crops and approximately 600 million trees are chopped down every year by the tobacco industry, making it a major contributor to deforestation.
The local situation is similar, with cigarette butts the most commonly found item picked up during our clean-ups. To tackle this problem we're logging data on cigarette waste to raise the profile of this problem and kickstart conversations around smoke-free coastal zones and the enforcement of littering fines.
Record Cigarette Waste
Together with the community we have collected over 26,000 cigarette butts so far this year. Help us #stopthedrop on cigarette waste by picking up butts and logging what you find in our report.
We support schools and youth groups with beach cleaning and litter picking activities. If you're interested in building any of our projects or events into your youth programmes, please get in touch.