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Cigarette Butts, the most littered item in the World

We Need To See The End To Cigarette Ends

Cigarette ends are the most littered item in the world. We see them all over our streets. It's a miracle if you can walk from one end of a road to the other without seeing a cigarette end.

It's somehow seen as socially acceptable to dispose of your cigarette by casually flicking it on the floor.

Cigarette litter is more than just a gripe for people with nothing better to complain about. It's a major problem worldwide. Which is felt exponentially by our planets beaches, oceans, and throughout every watersheds carrying water. It's hard to imagine that cigarette that you throw away outside your office, on the pavement or on your own doorstep ending up in the oceans. Yet this is an inevitable end for your discarded cigarette ends as they make their way through the drainage systems, into rivers, and end up in the ocean. But it isn't just an issue of litter, or trash ruining the aesthetic of our beaches. The toxins contained  in cigarettes which are collected in the filter and then washed out into our waterways and the ocean. They are then ingested by birds, fish and other sea mammals mistaking it for food.


But how do we solve the problem? How do we ensure that in 20 years time we've not stubbed out marine life. The damage cigarette butts do create untold damage to marine life.


Even if you're a non smoker who doesn't believe you shouldn't give a second thought to cigarette disposal  You're wrong. You shouldn't ignore. The severity of the issue is terrifying.


Whilst there have been bids to ban the sale of cigarettes that are sold with filters, or cigarettes that have a bio degradable filter, any measures would take years to implement. We can't afford to sit back and wait for action. 

Here are the stats to tell you why.


  • During a beach clean up which happened over the space of a day 230,000 cigarette butt ends were collected on Coastal Clean up Day. By far the most prevalent item collected were cigarettes.
  • The Ocean Conservancy association claim that cigarette butt litter accounts for approximately one in five items found during beach clean ups. This makes cigarette ends the most prevalent form of litter in the world.
  • In the United States each year there are over 176,000,000 pounds of discarded cigarette butts.
  • It is estimated that there are over 4.5 trillion cigarettes littered each year in the world.

At what cost?
If the environmental damage, and the harm cigarettes ends cause to marine life. There is also the cost of the manpower and the resources which it takes to collect litter from the beaches, parks, cities and towns. It comes at a great cost to governments having to police the streets looking for people littering and picking up the ever prevalent cigarette litter. Needless to say, that money could be better spent elsewhere.
So it would appear that there is a certain lack of moral conscience within some people. As cigarettes are normally discarded within 10 feet of an ashtray. The amount increased significantly after it became illegal to smoke indoors in the UK, US and other countries. Now you'll be able to find a prolific amount of discarded butts outside offices, and in courtyards or outside pubs. Then if you start to consider the lost revenues which are incurred when tourists stop visiting beaches or parks that are full of litter. The local business' will feel the impact due to the negligence of a smoker across the world!

Some people still live under the impression that cigarettes filters are degradable, unknown to the fact that filters, and the plastic wrap that you absent mindedly throw away remain in the environment for a ridiculously long time. Cigarettes ends contain cellulose acetate which is a form of plastic that takes anywhere up to 25 years to decompose.

If you've got this far and you're still wondering how something as small as a cigarette end can have such a detrimental impact. Imagine the 7 trillion butts which are littered each year (and the numbers are only increasing!) It adds up as do the toxic chemicals polluting the airways. Thankfully due to programmes such as the International Coastal Clean up, the issue is being tackled. One year during their annual beach clean up they found and removed 1,362,741 cigarettes butts from the waterways in the United states alone! And those weren't the only smoking related items. They also found 18,555 cigarette lighters, 74,399 lighter tips and 36,397 cigarette boxes!
With numbers that high the toxicity of our oceans has increased significantly. Just one cigarette introduced to one litre of water would result in the death of 50% of the marine life in the water. With over 165 chemicals in cigarettes it's not hard to see why.

Here are just a few of the chemicals in cigarettes.

Arsenic; A deadly poison, which creates malignant skin tumours which is also used as pesticides.
Acetone; An active ingredient which is also used in nail polish remover.
Lead; Which has the potential to stunt growth, and cause brain damage.

Formaldehyde: A carcinogenic which impacts the lungs, digestive system and skin.
Butane: A highly flammable substance which is a key component in gasoline.
Benzene; Which is another pesticide, also another element in gasoline.

Alongside the toxicity it has upon the ocean and the quality of our water, cigarette filters end up swallowed and found in the stomachs of dead fish, birds, whales and other marine wildlife that are unfortunate enough to mistake it as food.


Even if you're not a smoker. You can still be part of the solution. Now that you know the stats and you know the precarious position the ocean lies within you can take action. You can use this information to educate friends, family and others to be responsible with their litter and pass on the information.
If you're a business owner, provide smokers with an easily accessible way to dispose of cigarette ends responsibly and safely. We all have a moral responsibility to protect the environment we live within.

Don't be part of the problem. Be part of the solution.

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