Something that doesn’t get talked a lot about the scourge of tobacco is the littering and pollution problem caused by millions upon millions of cigarette butts being tossed aside into the environment.
Cigarette butts are the No. 1 item by weight cleaned up on U.S. beaches. Yeah, those little tiny cigarette butts end up weighing more than all the plastic bottles and beer cans they clean up on our beaches. Thirty-two percent of the trash picked up on U.S. beaches during beach clean-ups is cigarette butts.
I thought this was an interesting story about an experimental water wheel installed in Baltimore Harbor to help clean up cigarettes. According to this article from , over 160 tons of trash was removed by the contraption in one year — that included 97,000 bottles and 80,000 potato chip bags. Get this, it also included 4 million cigarette butts. It just dwarfs the other trash by sheer volume.
This is why I’m not especially sympathetic to people complaining about smoking bans in parks and beaches. If so many smokers didn’t use parks and beaches as an ashtray (and I get it, not all of them do it — but too many do it so ultimately smokers have no one to blame but themselves on this one.), then they wouldn’t bother with smoking bans on parks and beaches. These are more of a litter and pollution issue than a secondhand smoke issue. And these cigarette butts are made out of plastic and non-biodegradable. They clog up the environment for decades.