As freedivers, we see a lot of pollution in and around our favourite playground. It is impossible to see and NOT act. On Sunday, a small group of freedivers decided to kick butt! We collected more than four litres of cigarette butts on the site designated for the AIDA World Cup 2019 Athletes Village in Villefrance-sur-Mer, France. Check out my fundraiser here.
The problem with cigarette butts:
According to the Future of Waste, cigarette butts
contain around 4000 chemical substances (arsenic, lead, tar…).
take up to 10 years to disappear.
In France, 1000 cigarette butts per second are thrown on the ground.
In the mountains, up to 7 000 cigarette butts per day can be found under a single chairlift.
can pollute up to 500 litres of water per cigarette butt.
Smokers don’t realise that the butt they leave behind on the beach or throw in the street is actually toxic to the environment.
According to a 2011 study, “Toxicity of cigarette butt leachate was found to increase from unsmoked cigarette filters (no tobacco) to smoked cigarette filters (no tobacco) to smoked cigarette butts (smoked filter + tobacco)… Many chemical products are used during the course of growing tobacco and manufacturing cigarettes, the residues of which may be found in cigarettes prepared for consumption.3 4 These include pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and rodenticides.5 Additionally, over 4000 chemicals may also be introduced to the environment via cigarette particulate matter (tar) and mainstream smoke.4 These include chemicals such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, ammonia, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, benzene, phenol, argon, pyridines and acetone, over 50 of which are known to be carcinogenic to humans”.
Put simply, cigarette butt filters contain a lot of toxic chemicals.
The problem with simple beach clean-ups:
When we do beach clean-ups, we remove the butts from the beach and throw them in the trash. However, there’s a good chance that they will end up in landfill, where they will continue to leach chemicals into the soil and groundwater. So, is there a better way?
A better way:
There are many companies that collect and recycle cigarette butts and even cigarette box packaging! My favourite company for recycling goods that are not usually recycled by local governments is Terracycle. Have a look at their website and see if they have a solution suited to your recycling needs. This company recently started working with big brands to work towards “closing the loop“. In other words, closing the loop means that companies take back their packaging and re-use it, instead of pumping out endless amounts of hard to recycle products.
In France, these are some of the companies who collect cigarette butts to recycle:
An example of cigarette butt recycling:
Check out this great initiative by Taylor Lane and Ben Judkins. They make surfboards from cigarette butts.
Words with action ring hollow. It is time to start caring and cleaning up the trash on our planet.