Cigarette waste is one of the most littered items across the globe, thus posing a major concern on our environment. However, there is a lack of awareness and action regarding this situation. Cigarette butts appear as a minor piece of garbage and impose an inconvenience to those who smoke cigarettes. The problem with simply tossing your cigarette butts on the ground is that they are not biodegradable. Therefore animals often ingest it, since they are attracted to the smell of nicotine. To make matters worse, the cigarette butts eventually find its way into our water and the bioaccumulation of poisons found in cigarettes goes up the food chain causing damage to fisheries and our water supply.
Moreover, the estimated removal costs of cigarette waste range from $3 million to $16 million dollars for major cities and municipalities alone. It is also estimated that 25-50% of all collected litter items from roads and streets are cigarette butts.
Currently, there aren’t many methods of recycling cigarette butts, however, in 2013 the city of Vancouver became the first city in the world to implement a cigarette butt recycling program. Vancouver teamed up with TerraCycle, an eco-friendly recycling company dedicated to creating new life out of traditionally non-recyclable waste.
You might have noticed the silver bins attached to many posts around downtown Vancouver. Citizens are encouraged to deposit their cigarette butts into the bins instead of tossing them on the ground. These bins are emptied and sent to Terracycle, who composts the paper, ash, and tobacco and recycles the cellulose acetate found in cigarette filters. They transform cellulose acetate into reusable plastic pellets which are then used to create industrial-only products such as plastic lumber.
At the moment these bins are only available in the downtown core. However, if you do happen to pass by one of these bins I highly encourage you to toss your leftover cigarette butts in there instead of on the ground. In the future, I hope we’ll see the integration of these bins in other major cities in British Columbia.