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The Problem

Litter that lasts

Cigarette butts don’t degrade, they pollute

Cigarette butts are the last socially accepted form of litter.

A good number of people still think cigarette butts are biodegradable because the filters are cotton, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Cigarette filters are actually made of cellulose acetate, a synthetic compound derived from the acetylation of the plant substance cellulose and they capture over 4,000 chemicals that are introduced into the environment just by being tossed.

These pollutants include cigarette particulate matter (tar) and mainstream smoke—including carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, ammonia, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, benzene, phenol, argon, pyridines and acetone, over 50 of which are known to be carcinogenic to humans—one can clearly see a huge health impact brewing. And these toxins eventually leach into the ground and our waterways primarily through storm drains that dump into streams and lakes.

LEADING the pack

A global problem

Waste from smoking constitutes an estimated 30% of the total litter (by count) on U.S. shorelines, waterways, and on land. Cigarette butts are usually the most common piece of litter collected along waterways during the Ocean Conservancy’s yearly International Coastal Cleanup. In fact, over 2 million cigarette butts were picked up during the 2009 cleanup.

Keep America Beautiful (KAB) cites a lack of awareness on the smoker’s part as well as the absence of available waste receptacles for these alarming statistics. Incredibly, 77 percent of people in a survey by KAB responded that they didn’t think of cigarette butts as litter. They also noted that for every cigarette butt receptacle, cigarette litter drops by 9 percent in those areas.


The threat of fire

Discarded cigarette butts pose a significant threat to our environment in terms of fire. Every year, forest fires ravage vast areas, killing off wildlife and vegetation that take years to return.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoking materials like cigarettes, pipes, and cigars cause around 90,000 fires every year in the U.S. and are the number one cause of fire-related deaths each year.

Cigarette-induced fires claim hundreds of lives in the U.S. each year and injure thousands more. In addition, millions of dollars go up in smoke due to property damage.

A surprising fact

Cigarette butts can be recycled

Our Buttlers are easy to empty and TerraCycle will recycle 100% of the butts. Filters turn into plastic pellets and the organic materials are composted. TerraCycle will also donate $1.00 per pound of collected butts to Keep America Beautiful in your organization’s name. Click the logo below for more information and to learn how to register with TerraCycle. Or click here to download an informational PDF.

This video from National Geographic details the process that all Sidewalk Buttler cigarette waste goes through once it arrives at its final recycling destination.

FOR More information

To learn more, check out the following resources…