At a time when ecological problems are at the center of political, economic and social issues, seeing a smoker throw his cigarette butts on the road hardly shocks anyone, yet there are indeed consequences on our environment.
Around the world, one in three cigarettes ends up in the wild and more than 500 million kilograms of tobacco waste are spread in our environment each year.
If the impressive quantity of cigarette butts thrown into nature is problematic, it is the toxic composition of cigarette ends filters which is even more so, which, contrary to what one might think, are not made of cotton but plastic (cellulose acetate). They contain many toxic and chemical components. Once in contact with water, these substances become new predators for ecosystems and particularly aquatic ones.
Components not very eco-friendly for the environment
As soon as a cigarette butt comes into contact with a natural environment, the transmission of pollutants is imminent. This waste is made up of around ten chemical elements such as heavy metals (lead, mercury, chromium, etc.), nicotine or tar.
If cigarette butts are classified as hazardous waste, it is mainly because of nicotine. This substance has been used since the 15th century as a pesticide. Its use as such is very supervised and regulated in countries such as the United States, Canada or in many European countries because of its toxicity on animal species .
The poison of fish
Throwing away your cigarette ends has consequences on the environment as a whole. A study was carried out on fish (Atherinopsidae) and on other marine species. In behavioral tests, water fleas are extremely sensitive: toxic effects , such as immobilization , can be observed from the presence of 0.05 butt per liter.
Other tests have shown that cigarette butts behave mutagenically on bacteria and increase the chances of mortality and behavioral disturbances in sea snails. The impacts are different depending on the species but in the majority of cases, the reproductive systems are affected from a minimal amount of nicotine, tar and all other toxic substances.
Even more alarming, a single cigarette butt is enough to wipe out half of a population of fish living in a liter of water .
Animals in bad company
Marine species are not the only species to suffer the dangers of cigarette butts and its 4,000 chemical components. Pets can also be affected by the impact of nicotine on their health.
Although most cases involve accidental ingestion of cigarette butts or cigarettes, these substances are still sufficiently dangerous for animal organisms.
At ÉcoMégot, we have developed a cigarette butts treatment solution that involves raising awareness among individuals, installing smoking areas and recycling them in recycled plastic, without the use of water and solvents.