Plastic comes in all the colors and shapes you can imagine. Although they may look colorful and innocent, we know that plastic pollution has become one of the most pressing environmental issues of the moment. People are constantly coming up with new recycling methods and solutions, and in general everyone tries not to throw their plastic waste on the street. But how is it possible that one of the greatest plastic pollutants is never talked about?
There is a polluter that turns out to be the most dangerous, and this one is not large or colourful, no, it is the smallest of all plastic objects: the cigarette butt. Is there any street completely free of littered cigarettes? They are really everywhere, and yet everyone looks over them.
Many people know about the harmful effects of smoking on your health, but the cigarette destroys much more than just smokers' lungs. This assassin is destroying our planet. Every day we are confronted with alarming reports about the future of our planet, but the word cigarette is hardly ever mentioned.
Smokers around the world buy about 6.5 trillion cigarettes every year. That's 18 billion cigarettes every day. Two thirds of this amount ends up being thrown on the ground. These cigarette butts are eventually flushed into the sewers by wind and rain and emptied into the waterways and the ocean. In cities and on beaches, 30 to 40 percent of all the littered waste is a cigarette butt.
Cigarette butts are made up of the cigarette filter and the unsmoked remains of the cigarette that still contain harmful substances. Cigarette filters contain the plastic cellulose acetate and many other harmful substances. This may make cigarettes even more dangerous than other plastic items. In addition, the plastic in the cigarette butt breaks down into smaller microplastics when it comes into contact with water.
It takes about twelve years for the plastic in the filter to degrade and even then it has not completely disappeared. The microplastics are so small that once they are in the water they cannot be removed. In addition to the plastic, butts also contain nicotine, heavy metals, and many other chemicals. Purified sewage water also contains these substances and the microplastic because advanced water purification plants cannot filter them completely. This means that people's drinking water also contains some of these substances.
The butts also have a negative effect on plants and animals. The harmful substances in the butt that come into contact with water can inhibit plant growth. Underwater animals eat cigarette butts and die as a result. one cigarette butt can pollute up to 500 liters of water.
Cigarettes are the last acceptable form of waste and that must end quickly.