Over 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered every year, as an average smoker disposes of 2.5 kilograms of cigarette butts each year. Many of these are not disposed of correctly, making them the world’s most littered item. Ultimately this means that they end up in habitats, such as the ocean. It is common to see these cigarette butts on beaches or in the ocean as they are passed through water systems which lead to the ocean.
It is a well known fact that smoking can be bad for your health, but many people are unaware of the damaging effects that cigarettes can have on our environment. When you smoke you are not using the whole product, this butt is then seen as waste. But this small piece of cigarette can be very dangerous, as it is in fact made of plastic. The cellulose acetate fibres used to make filters contain microplastic particles that remain in the environment for a very long time. This can then mean that wildlife will inject them, which can lead to health issues and death. The butts can also leach out harmful toxins and chemicals into the environment. Some designers and activists are using the visual cues of cigarettes to inform smokers of the affect their cigarette disposal. While material scientists are using the waste material to create new products, such as Dr. Abbas Mohajerani & RMIT who are creating bricks from cigarette waste.
Jugaad by Sachi Tungare
Sachi Tungare collected five kilograms of cigarette butts to create her Jugaad collection. A series of 10 multi-coloured bowls and vases were created from cellulose acetate derived from cigarette filters. Cellulose is derived from wood pulp, and is part of the makeup of a cigarette. This wood pulp is turned into cellulose acetate by using a chemical process called acetylation, and is then spun into fibres to make the cigarette filters. In order to utilise this abundant material Tungare cleaned the butts before dissolving them, mixing this with different colours, and casting it into objects.
Birds are known to ingest cigarette butts as they confuse them for food, which can lead to their death. They are also known to use this waste to build nests due to the synthetic fibre which they use to keep eggs warm. Therefore, Isaac Monté wanted to create a product that made smokers think. The ‘filter factory’ is a project which consists of an urban machine that shreds discarded cigarette buds and turns them into a birdhouse. As an incentive for using the machine he rewards random smokers with a bird house of their own. The product itself is made using a machine similar to a waffle iron as the shredded butts are melted and then press moulded.
The Cigarette Surfboard by Taylor Lane
In 2017, Industrial Designer Taylor Lane created a surfboard made from 10,000 beach-littered cigarettes collected from Californian beaches. The response he received from this has prompted him to expand the project, including creating a documentary film with Ben Judkins. The Cigarette Surfboards turned into an awareness platform for ocean stewardship. Lane was able use the boards as a symbol of a campaign to hold Big Tobacco accountable for their toxic cigarette butt waste.
The Cigarette Surfboard
Ben Judkins and Paul Daniels
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