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Cigarette Butts Are Toxic Plastic Pollution

Cigarette Butts are Toxic Plastic Pollution – 2021

Cigarette butts can be found everywhere, on the green spaces, sidewalks, beaches, almost everywhere we go. 98% of these cigarette filters are made up of plastic fibers called Cellulose Acetate. The plastic fibers are tightly packed together to form a cigarette butt. Every year 4.5 cigarettes are littered every year which leaves a significant impact on the environment. When cigarette butts are littered, it drains many toxic chemicals away with them, including arsenic, nicotine, lead, and many other poisonous substances that can pollute the environment and contaminate water affecting marine life.

Also, cigarette butts are made with non-biodegradable material. The breakdown of a cigarette butt can take up to 10 years or more, depending on the climatic and environmental conditions. 

According to the new report commissioned by the World Health Organization, “Smoking is not only harmful to health, but it is also affecting and damaging the planet”. It was reported that the annual Carbon Footprint of Tobacco is 84 million tonnes, almost as high as the emissions of Greenhouse gas of Israel.

Effects on the Environment

Every year, 6 trillion cigarettes are produced worldwide, which uses many resources of the earth, including 4 million hectares of land and more than 22 billion tonnes of water in its making. In a report by the World Health Organisation, the environmental impact of being a smoker was calculated based on an individual level. 

Cigarette pollution can damage the environment and affect the lives of animals, as when humans throw away cigarette butts or packaging in the surroundings, animals can consume them, which puts them at risk due to the presence of toxic chemicals. The chemicals are harmful and poisonous and can kill the animals. The substances cannot be digested by the animals and can choke them to death. 

Cigarette butts not only affect the resources on land but also heavily affect rivers, waterways, oceans. Cigarette litter ends up reaching oceans, channels; the water gets contaminated with cigarette pollution, which is very harmful to marine life or aquatic animals that live in that water.

Cigarette butts are considered the primary cause of heavy metal contamination in water. Chemicals released from a single cigarette are toxic enough to kill 50% of the total fish exposed to it. It also affects the earth’s resources, including land, waterways, trees, destroying the beauty of nature.

Cigarette fishes

From Tobacco to Plastics

People have been smoking tobacco for many years. Earlier, paper cigarettes were introduced after cigars pipes or snuffs to consume tobacco. But then cigarette rolling machines were invented, which increased cigarette production, leading it to become extremely popular among people. In the starting few years of production, cigarette filters did not exist. The health impacts due to Smoking were very evident and apparent.

Filters take a very long time to degrade in the environment. They break down to form tiny little pieces of plastic, which are called microplastics which cause pollution and contaminate the waterways and oceans. Cigarette butts are made with toxic materials which are very harmful to animals and marine life. This is also one of the reasons why Marine Life calls for help.

Measures to Solve this issue:

Every trillion cigarettes are smoked, and cigarette butts are found on streets, oceans, rivers, and other places. A large number of cigarette filters are accumulated, which impacts the cleanliness and beauty of nature. But every problem has a solution, and there are few measures using which Cigarette pollution can be controlled.

  • There should be litter laws enforced to control the problem of cigarette pollution.
  • Awareness programs should be organized to create awareness about the issue among people.
  • Installing Butt bins at different spots in society.
  • Pocket Ashtrays should be introduced 
  • Public Smoking should be prohibited and making particular smoking areas for people.

Lack of awareness not only exists in India, but it has also become a global issue. Smoking will continue as people will not stop Smoking which adds to the overall 175000 tonnes of butts to the waste problem in the world. But if the people become responsible, these people can be discarded and ended, leading to a society free of cigarette butts. 

Conclusion

The statement is true that cigarette butts are toxic plastic pollution due to the filter and material used. The filters present in cigarette butts do not degrade directly, they break down into the diminutive form of plastics called microplastics which are very dangerous and harmful for the environment.

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