Impact of cigarette butts on the environment

Impact of cigarette butts on the environment

Butt filters are quite polluting waste, as they are made up of cellulose acetate, a material derived from petroleum that, contrary to what it might seem, is not biodegradable and can take up to ten years to decompose.

They are the most thrown object in the world, according to the Truth Initiative, an anti-cigarette organization that during the Video Music Awards launched a campaign against cigarette butts.

Nowadays cigarette butts are discarded anywhere, from sidewalks to beaches or sky stations, which in addition to dirtying our surroundings, affects the environment, because we must not forget that the filter serves to accumulate certain harmful substances from tobacco, such as nicotine or tar, which over time will be transferred to the soil or water, contaminating them and affecting the surrounding biota. In fact, there are studies that indicate that a single cigarette butt can contaminate eight liters of water.

For example, the University of Longwood in the United States conducted a study where they analyzed the effects of water with butts on the water flea, the base crustacean of the food chain in freshwater ecosystems, finding that for concentrations of less than 0.125 butts per liter fleas die in less than 48 hours, it was also concluded that a cigarette butt causes the contamination of 8 liters of water.

The cigarette is one of the most consumed products in the world, the tobacco industry has grown considerably in the last decade, even knowing that the cigarette causes irreparable damage to the body and very diverse health problems, but an even more serious damage is its contribution mainly to atmospheric, soil and water pollution.

Cigarette butts, for example, contain toxic elements that affect fauna, in Australia it has been calculated that 50% of cigarettes consumed are smoked outdoors, and about 59% are thrown on the ground, when their correct disposition is in the garbage can or ashtray, that is to say that about 4,000 million cigarette butts end up in the environment every year.

Thomas Novtny, a professor of public health at San Diego State University, argues that cigarette butts should be disposed of as they have not been shown to have benefits for human health. "They are just a marketing tool that makes it easier for people to smoke," he says. According to the academic, cigarette butts are nothing more than a highly polluting agent.

Butts pollute more than straws

Over the course of 32 years, 60 million cigarette butts have been collected on all the world's beaches. This is stated by the US media NBC, which conducted a study that argues that these elements pollute the oceans more than plastic straws.

Other no less important impacts:

  • As is known, cigarette butts are also one of the causes of forest fires that cause so much damage to our forest area.
  • Butts can be accidentally swallowed by young children. And they have also been found in the stomachs of different species, birds, turtles and other marine species. Recently, in Barcelona, ​​a family reported the existence of a cigarette butt in a fresh squid that they had acquired in the market, and that they were preparing to cook for dinner.
  • The garbage caused by cigarette butts in our streets, involves high cleaning costs, as well as a visual impact. Don't you think they are everywhere? According to estimates, cigarette butts represent 26% of the garbage collected on the beaches.


There is a lot of innovation in this field, since biodegradable filters have been developed, a novel invention that is already used and commercialized in many places, and that could help alleviate part of the problem. They are formed by a mixture of hemp and cotton that makes them 100% biodegradable, serving as a natural fertilizer for all types of plants.

Another innovation occurred to the designer Ben Norman: starting a project where throwing cigarette butts to the ground was something we expect from everyone, since now inside the butts there would be seeds, both for flowers and grass, which together with the new biodegradable filters made of hemp and cotton, would help the growth of the small stems.

Greenbutts It would be the company that would reform the current materials of a cigarette with the mission of changing filters around the world for this positive and new project.

Please don't have any more cigarettesIf you do, try to leave them, or at least don't throw the cigarette butts around, give them a proper arrangement.

With information from:

Video: Effects of Cigarette Smoking to the Environment (January 2022).