Let’s talk about butts, baby. No, not the nice curvy ones that we all sit on daily, the once that we use to filter the smoke of the cigarette. Or so we thought?
More to that in a minute.
Now, I speak from a decade of experience here. To fit in with the cool kids, I started to smoke at the age of 18, and I don’t do things half-assed, so I smoked a pack a day.
Yeah not very smart, I know, but we all have to learn our lessons in life.
At some stage, I decided that rolling these little suckers would be better. I bought papers, filters, and tobacco. While I did enjoy the process of rolling a cigarette, and it was also cheaper to roll, it still was a bad habit.
I tricked myself into believing I could smoke healthy, (haha not so much). I started rolling American Spirit tobacco, which is preservative-free and cost a lot more than your normal rolling tobacco. (there goes the rolling is cheaper part out of the window).
None the less I have been smoke-free since 2012. Hold on, it wasn’t easy, and I had many failed attempts, but I finally knocked this terrible habit on the head.
How you might wonder?
Firstly, I made sure that I absolutely wanted to quit.
Secondly, I had to create a lot of pain for not quitting. Questions you can ask yourself are:
What happens to my health in one year, three years or five years from now?
What will it cost me if I don’t change? Physically, Mentally, Emotionally.
I was in so much mental pain for not quitting, that I had no other option. Plus I was dating a girl the following week that hated smokers, which left me no choice because I really liked her.
See people are often motivated by moving away from pain. But don’t wait for the doctor to tell you you got lung cancer, that might be too late.
I get it, this sounds very easy. Trust me, I’ve been there and I know that it can take years. It can be frustrating and you are in a constant battle with yourself, but don’t give up on your health is all I am saying. Enough of the lecture here my last piece of advice…
If you want to quit smoking, I highly recommend to read the book; The easy way to quit smoking by Allen Carr. Funnily he died of lung cancer. Ironic, isn’t it? Now don’t expect to read some magic sentence that will break your habit once and for all. There is no magic here, it will just clarify what you already know and that might be enough.
It worked for me ( the second time around), but it worked. Plus it’s only $15, which I believe in some countries, eg. Australia is a pack of cigarettes.
What’s in my butt?
My rule of thumb has become; if I can’t even pronounce the ingredients that are in my food, or in this case in cigarettes. Why should I bother putting them in my system? Try and pronounce these:
- triacetin: plasticizer (applied to bond the fibers)
- titanium dioxide: delustrant (to reduce fiber shine)
- mineral oil: lubricant (for production of fibers)
- sorbitan monolaurate: surfactant or emulsifier
- ethoxylated sorbitan monolaurate: surfactant or emulsifier
Cigarette butt litter and the environment.
Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, and they are not biodegradable. Apparently 70% of the population thinks otherwise.
Why is it that we are banning plastic bags and blaming straws as a danger to our environment, but cigarette butts are being swept under the carpet?
- Since the ‘80s cigarette butts have been found to make up 30 – 40% of coastal and urban clean-ups.
- Most people think that cigarette butts are recyclable.
- 4.5 trillion butts are littered each year. That’s T for trillion.
The majority of those butts is made from plastic and never fully breaks down; it only breaks into smaller pieces. Cigarette butts are considered toxic waste because they leach toxic chemicals, like arsenic and lead into the environment.
You know that white fluffy material they are made of? It’s called cellulose acetate and can take from 18 months to 10 years to decompose.
Decompose to me sounds confusing because I hear decompose and think, oh excellent, so they do go away.
Well, yes and no. The plastic breaks down into microplastic, and before it does that, it leaches chemicals and nicotine, which is poisonous, into the ground, affecting our environment. ~ source
Cigarette Filter Facts
Here are some additional facts about cigarette filters:
- Cigarette filters were designed to absorb some of the toxins in cigarette smoke and collect solid particles known as tar. They are also intended to keep tobacco from entering the smoker’s mouth.
- Most cigarette filters contain a core of cellulose acetate and two layers of wrapping that are made of paper and/or rayon.
- Cellulose acetate fibers in a cigarette filter are thinner than sewing thread, and a single filter contains more than 12,000 of these fibers.
- The inner wrapper on a cigarette filter is designed to either allow air to flow through it from the core for light cigarettes or to block airflow for regular cigarettes.
- The outer layer of paper is engineered to not stick to a smoker’s lips and attaches the filter to the tube of tobacco.
- Chemicals are added to cigarette paper to control the burn rate, and calcium carbonate is added as a whitener, in part to create appealing ash as the cigarette burns.
“The filter is really a fraud,” said Dr. Thomas Novotny. “It’s simply a marketing tool.”
What dangers do cigarette butts cause to the environment?
Cigarette butts are small and full of toxins. They fill up the animal’s stomach with a brew of chemicals and leave them hungry, while their stomachs become full of plastic. Sadly the animal eventually starves to death.
Every sea bird in the world is now affected by plastic pollution. Birds are returning from sea to feed their chicks with small amounts of plastic rubbish and cigarette butts.
An estimated 4.5 trillion are littered each year.
According to the independent.co.uk cigarette filters also slow down the growth of plants and affect the root development by 57%. These tests were done on clover and grass. Not only did they discover that used cigarette filters would damage the healthy development, but even unused ones, without the chemicals. This indicates that the filter alone is dangerous to the environment.
Are cigarette butts the bigger evil that no one wants to admit too?
In short, yes. Straws only make up 0.02% in the ocean waste which sounds very small now, but Australian scientists Denise Hardesty and Chris Wilcox reckon that 437 million to 8.3 billion plastic straws are on the entire world’s coastlines.
Why is littering cigarette butts tolerated?
I think a lot of smokers still don’t actually know that cigarette butts are not recyclable. They are also a big thread in causing wildfires when carelessly tossed away.
Smokers say they would discard cigarette butts more carefully if there were more available disposal containers near office buildings, in the city and near bus stops, etc.
What are some alternatives?
Karma has created a rolling filter tip that contains seeds. They are made from cotton, fruit and vegetable pulp without the use of any chemicals. This makes them tree-friendly and 100% biodegradable. Every time you toss your cigarette on the ground it grows into a plant. From edible plants to flowers, it’s all there. Cool idea I say.
While there was an attempt to solve the issue of non-biodegradable cigarette butts, the problem remains. Even though Green butts came up with a hemp-based no toxin glued cigarette filter. Big tobacco is not using it.
Some say it only encourages to litter even more. While I think it is just a matter of lobbying. Big tobacco is not taking responsibility for the amount of waste and death they have caused.
Yes, if you can’t kick the bad habit in the butt yet (pun intended) then perhaps swapping over to the market of electric cigarettes is one alternative. Personally I think they look ridiculous but who am I to judge here.
Carry your own ashtray:
When I first moved to Byron Bay, Australia I was still a smoker. Since it is right near the ocean and people are very in tune with nature, they handed out empty camera film containers. Do you remember those little cylinder-shaped black boxes, they work great as a pocket ashtray?
Alternatively, you could buy a portable ashtray, something like this:
How to recycle cigarette butts?
The best way is to collect your cigarette butts and send them to TerraCycle. It’s free and easy. All you need to do is collect your old cigarette butts and send them for free to TerraCycle. They will sort them clean them and turn them into new useful products.
I went to my neighbor who smokes a lot, and I gave him a container to collect his butts inside. Two months later and it is full. Now I am going to send it off to Terracycle. Happy neighbor, happy planet, happy Terracycle.
Please share your cigarette story with me or comment below. Do you have more alternative ideas for reducing cigarette waste in the environment?