ON SATURDAY, May 14, I volunteered with Ecobarge Clean Seas Inc. as they conducted a foreshore cleanup.
In three hours the volunteers collected 157kg of rubbish including a staggering 5376 (1.2kg) cigarette butts. I wanted to learn more about cigarette butts so here are some facts about this ubiquitous object.
The first misconception commonly held is that they are biodegradable. They are not!
They pose a significant level of toxicity to the environment, both marine and onshore, if ingested by marine creatures such as sea turtles or land based creatures such as small children and dogs.
The filter tip consists of over 1500 cellulose acetate fibres treated with titanium oxide and use glycerol triacetate as a binding agent.
The filter is surrounded by two layers of paper and/or rayon which contain glue to hold the paper together and sodium acetate to maintain burning.
The filter contains the concen- trated residue of the consumed tobacco of the cigarette. Many chemicals are used to grow tobacco, the residues of which may be found in the cigarette, including pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and rodenticides.
A careless discarded cigarette butt can release nicotine, arsenic, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals into the environment and are regarded as carcinogenic.
The second misconception is that a filter tipped cigarette is more beneficial to the smoker than the untipped variety. It’s not!
Filter tips are a health hazard to both the smoker and, if discarded irresponsibility to the wider environment.
In summary then, if smoking is your thing, smoke a plain tipped cigarette and, if out and out about, take a small tin with you, to take the filter tip or plain butt for future safe disposal.
A small change in habit will make a significant difference to our wonderful environment. Anthony Dunn Cannonvale