Category Archives: Littering

Cigarette butts the No. 1 cause of beach pollution

This is why I have ZERO sympathy for smokers complaining about beach smoking bans. They really have no one to blame but themselves for smoking being banned on beaches.

Here is an NBC story about the latest campaign to ban plastic straws. There’s a good argument for banning plastic straws, especially when paper straws are a perfectly usable alternative.

But, the article points out that cigarette butts have been and continue to be the champion contaminant in the oceans and on the beaches.

This story makes an interesting point, that flicking butts away on the ground is a pretty deeply ingrained behaviour that’s hard to stop. A tobacco industry study confirmed this.

From NBC News:

In industry focus groups, some smokers said they thought filters were biodegradable, possibly made of cotton; others said they needed to grind the butts out on the ground, to assure they didn’t set a refuse can afire; others said they were so “disgusted” by the sight or smell of cigarette ashtrays, they didn’t want to dispose of their smokes that way. In one focus group cited in industry documents, smokers said tossing their butts to the ground was “a natural extension of the defiant/rebellious smoking ritual.”

According to this story:

The Ocean Conservancy has sponsored a beach cleanup every year since 1986. For 32 consecutive years, cigarette butts have been the single most collected item on the world’s beaches, with a total of more than 60 million collected over that time. That amounts to about one-third of all collected items and more than plastic wrappers, containers, bottle caps, eating utensils and bottles, combined.

People sometimes dump that trash directly on to beaches but, more often, it washes into the oceans from countless storm drains, streams and rivers around the world. The waste often disintegrates into microplastics easily consumed by wildlife. Researchers have found the detritus in some 70 percent of seabirds and 30 percent of sea turtles.

Actually, I never thought of that before, that the butts are washing into the oceans though sewers.

Anyway, some people are taking an interesting tack on the cigarette butt problem — get rid of cigarette filters altogether.

Yeah, now that you think about it. Why not? It’s been long proven that cigarette butts serve no useful purpose other than trying to trick smokers that their cigarettes have been made safer. No one really buys that anymore, so why keep the filters around. The Truth Initiative has proposed simply getting rid of cigarette filters.

So cigarettes butts continue being a huge pollution problem, despite the precipitous drop in smoking rates in the West.. Anyway, I’ll keep an eye on this campaign to get rid of cigarette butts and see if it goes anywhere.

Cigarettes not just bad for your health, they’re bad for the environment

Cigarettes are the most littered item on earth. (PRNewsFoto/
Cigarettes are the most littered item on earth. (PRNewsFoto/

Something that gets overlooked a lot about cigarettes — their effect on the environment.

An organization called, (Seems to be related to is highlighting the truly shocking and amazing impact cigarettes have on the environment — mostly from the filters being tossed away on the ground. The group is starting a campaign to the get the word out about the damage done from cigarettes, using a series of Internet memes to get its point across.

For instance, cigarettes are the No. 1 most littered item in the entire world resulting in 1.7 billion tons per year of trash in the environment.

That may sound like a shocking number, but keep in mind just how many cigarettes get smoked each year. In the United States alone, about 45 million people smoke. Say those 45 million people average roughly one pack a day — that translates into 900 million cigarettes a day and more than 300 billion cigarettes a year. And that’s just the U.S. It’s bad enough that that’s in the waste stream, but a lot of cigarette butts end up in the environment, not just landfills. Say just a measly 10 percent of those cigarette butts end up on beaches, parks and sidewalks — that’s 30 billion cigarette butts a year being dumped into the environment.

1.69 billion pounds of butts end up as waste each year. (PRNewsFoto/
1.69 billion pounds of butts end up as waste each year. (PRNewsFoto/

Other effects on the enviromment: One tree is chopped down to create just 15 cigarettes. Again, do the math — that’s 20 billion trees a year to feed the U.S.’s smoking habit.

Also keep in mind that the filters in cigarettes are not made of cotton like they appear. They are actually made out of plastic, which takes forever to break down in the environment.

The huge problem of littering is the biggest reason why smoking bans have been expanded to include many public beaches and parks. Smokers’ rights people go nuts over outdoor smoking bans, but my attitude is smokers honestly have no one to blame but themselves for the really massive cigarette butt littering problem on beaches and parks. I can find a million links online showing that cigarette butts are far and away the No. 1 trash problem on beaches. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 32 percent of the trash cleaned up on beaches is strictly cigarette butts.