Volunteers Collect 270,000 Cigarette Butts in 3 Hours in Brussels

May 28, 2019 at 5:33 pm

Cigarette butts, not straws, are the #1 source of plastic pollution in the ocean, according to new report

A group of 240 volunteers recently picked up a quarter million cigarette butts off the streets of Brussels in just 3 hours:

They were trying to raise awareness around the common misconception that cigarette butts are harmless, biodegradable bits of paper.

“The white fibers you see in a cigarette filter are NOT cotton, but a plastic that can persist in the environment as long as other forms of plastic,” say researchers at Longwood University in Virginia.

The filters are made of a type of plastic called cellulose acetate, which can take over a decade to degrade into microscopic fibers of plastic. And, like most plastics, it never fully biodegrades.

Cigarettes are the No. 1 source of plastic polluting the world’s oceans, according to a recent report by NBC News

For 32 consecutive years, cigarette butts have been the single most collected item on the world’s beaches, according to the Ocean Conservancy.

The organization has removed more than 60 million butts from beaches since 1986.

That’s more than all the plastic wrappers, containers, bottles, caps and utensils collected put together.

About two-thirds of the 5 trillion cigarettes produced each year are improperly disposed of, according to Cigarette Butt Pollution Project.

In addition to plastic pollution, the filters add hundreds of toxic chemicals to waterways.