How Cigarette Filters Impact the Environment
Cigarette filters are designed to trap the harmful chemicals in cigarettes before they are inhaled by the smoker. But what happens to those filters once they've been used? It turns out that cigarette filters have a significant environmental impact, and not in a good way.
95% of cigarette filters are made of plastic material (cellulose acetate) that may appear like cotton. It is non-biodegradable and may remain toxic for up to ten years. It may sound shocking, but cigarettes add up to 40% of all litter collected. Most smokers discard cigarettes anywhere without thinking about the environmental impact of cigarette filters.
This non-biodegradable waste can actually release harmful chemicals into the environment. Subsequently, this may cause serious damage to soil, water bodies, and aquatic life and could have long-term consequences for the planet.
The real environmental impact of cigarette filters
The impact of cigarette filters is endless. When discarded cigarette filters persist in the environment, chemicals leach into the soil and pollute the water bodies. Here's detailed information to consider giving up smoking or being more mindful about your habits and decisions.
Full of toxins
The cigarettes you smoke may be more than just a bothersome habit – they're also a toxic environmental hazard. Cigarette litter is full of microplastic waste that contains nicotine and heavy metals that may be absorbed into our environment. If you discard these filters into the garbage disposal, they may swell up and clog the drains, creating another inconvenience. These filters may also find their way into streams, lakes, and oceans. These are tiny but mighty wherever they end up in our environment.
When a lit cigarette is tossed carelessly on the ground, it can easily start a fire that can potentially destroy acres of forests. It may also lead to a threat to life and property. Moreover, the recovery period for burnt-down forests may be several years, so the local wildlife and residents will continue to suffer from its implications. Additionally, the smoke from these fires may further lead to diseases, allergies, and poor air quality for a long period of time.
Poisonous for the wildlife
Apart from forest fires, cigarette filters are hazardous to wildlife for a few more reasons. First, the filter is made of plastic, which never biodegrades and can wreak havoc on the natural environment. Second, since it persists in the environment for long, its harmful chemicals leach into soil and water, harming plants, animals and aquatic life.
The wild animals may either consume contaminated water or ingest them directly, mistaking filters for food. Needless to say, the ingested toxins can make them sick.
What can be done to manage the environmental impact of cigarette filters?
There are several ways to reduce the environmental impact of cigarette filters:
- Cigarette butts can be recycled. Some companies that make products from recycled materials accept cigarette butts and turn them into clothing, furniture, or building materials. A few cities also have recycling programs for cigarette butts, so check for that.
- Public awareness campaigns to highlight the dangers posed by improperly disposed cigarette filters can also make a difference. The public can be encouraged to dispose of cigarette butts properly. Users must be responsible when it comes to discarding cigarettes after smoking. Only self-realisation can work as these products are not likely to be banned.
- Smokers can switch to vaping as it has a lower carbon footprint and waste. Switching to vaping, they will be free from the hassle of single-use packaging and filters. Moreover, many vaping supplies come in recyclable packaging. Even vape devices are recyclable, hence reducing long-term waste, and helping the environment.
- Providing collection receptacles for cigarette butts in high traffic areas may prevent smokers from littering.
- Implementing fines and penalties for individuals who litter with cigarette butts can be helpful. Such rules already exist; however, they may need more strict implementation.
Those who are sceptical about vaping may try single-use vape products before investing in more supplies. Besides reducing environmental waste, vaping also has several benefits compared to traditional smoking.
Benefits of eradicating cigarette filter waste
The public health benefits of eradicating cigarette filters would be significant.
- It would eliminate a major source of littering, which is not only unsightly but also hazardous to wildlife.
- Switching to biodegradable cigarette filters or vaping products would reduce the number of smokers who get sick from inhaling tobacco smoke.
- It may reduce the number of deaths from smoking-related illnesses such as cancer, as traditional filters do not prevent the inhalation of toxins. Moreover, these filters may be more harmful as they trap tar and toxins that are eventually inhaled along with the smoke.
- We can reduce the number of toxic waste products that enter water bodies every year.
- It will reduce the cost of labour that usually collects cigarette filter waste.
The environmental impact of cigarette filters is a growing concern. Cigarette butts make up the majority of litter found on streets, in waterways, and parks. A lot of this waste can be attributed to the fact that most smokers do not properly dispose of their cigarettes. In addition, cigarette filters are made from non-biodegradable materials like cellulose acetate, which means they can take years to decompose.
The good news is that there are things we can all do to help reduce the amount of cigarette butt waste produced each year. For example, if you're a smoker, try carrying a small bag with you to put your butts in until you can find an appropriate receptacle. Moreover, you can switch to vaping to prevent single-use waste.