Summer has arrived and all the beach-goers have probably seen them hiding in the sand with their butts ever so slightly peeking out -cigarette butts littering our shorelines. Most people are aware of the health risks associated with smoking cigarettes. However, they often forget the environment implications.
Many people believe because of their size, they are relatively harmless to the environment. On the contrary, they are tiny little pieces of litter, that when discarded can enter our marine eco-systems, and damage our wildlife and water supply.
You see, cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded piece of waste on our beaches worldwide. It is estimated that 4.5 trillion butts are littered each year, that is approximately 1.69 billon pounds of cigarette butts that end up as toxic trash. Yikes!
Cigarette litter is not biodegradable. They are made of a type of plastic called cellulose acetate tow which can take years to decompose in the environment.
Not to mention, cigarette filters are designed to collect toxins during the smoking process. Therefore, each filter can potentially be compose of up to 60 known carcinogens such as arsenic, formaldehyde, chromium, lead and cadmium.
The impact on marine life is significant. The chemicals leak out of the butts once they enter the aquatic environment causing water pollution and threatening the marine life.
Birds, and aquatic animals often mistake the butts as food, swallowing harmful toxins and plastic. Serious digestive problems can arise leading to death. Cigarette butts have been found in the stomaches of fish, whales, sea turtles, birds and other marine creatures. Gross. I am sure you would not like finding a cigarette butt in your next meal, so I am guess the fish don’t like it either.
The Bait Tank, is starting to pop up along different shore lines in California, Florida and North Carolina. It was created for the simple purpose of educating people and having a safe place to discard cigarette butts. Their motto: Save some fish. Feed me butts.
How can one person help to keep our beaches clean? Prevention-If you are smoker, dispose of your butts in responsible manner. Use personal ashtrays , or heat-resistant pouches made to hold cigarette butts safely.
Not a smoker. Educate. Educate Educate the dangers of smoking and the impact one single butt has on marine life and the environment! Apparently, the number one reason smokers litter, is that they are not aware of the environmental effects of their actions.
Picking-up trash along the shoreline can be a method to keep trash, such as cigarette butts out of harms way.
So the next time you see someone littering their butts, politely educate them on the topic or the next time you are having a cigarette think of the fish you could possibly save by butting out the right way.
Danielle Richardet, from It starts with me, has collected 23,918 cigarette butts in 79 days at Wrightsville Beach, NC. Take a few moments and follow her cigarette butt journey!
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