Most parks, streets, and sidewalks in well-populated areas can usually be found to have cigarette butts scattered all over them. The environmental repercussions of this is being brought to the attention of the social media community thanks to a new cleanup project established by a team of French teenagers.
Amel Talha introduced the hashtag #FillTheBottle when a friend of hers gathered a bunch of cigarette butts in an empty water bottle and tweeted the photo. The campaign has driven thousands of people to join the cause of removing one of the most frequent types of litter worldwide.
“This is a big problem in France but also all around the world,” said 18 year old Talha. She continued to say she is “extremely happy and proud” that the project has made an impact.
“20 minutes to fill this 1 litre bottle in an area of less than 50m,” wrote Jason Prince, who tweeted the photo last week Wednesday. “This is extremely serious.”
Christian Musitu Swamu, retweeted the image, saying, “It isn’t much, but if everybody did it, that would be something cool”.
In less than a day, thousands of tweets, photos, and videos were being posted with the hashtag. Talha said she was shocked “to see that people liked it and took time to do it”. French company MéGo, which gathers and recycles cigarette filters, has been in touch with Talha to dispose of the butts.
The damage cigarette filters pose on the environment
Cigarette filters are manufactured from cellulose acetate, a synthetic product that is made out of wood pulp. For a cigarette butt to completely decompose, it can take anywhere between 1.5 to 10 years.
“People think cigarettes are biodegradable,” says Nicola Boon from the Keep Britain Tidy charity. “They know they’re toxic, but they think the toxins disappear magically.”
Keep Britain Tidy commented that plastics, arsenic, lead, and nicotine from cigarette butts can all seep into the environment, causing significant harm to ocean life.
The biggest global publicly traded tobacco company, British American Tobacco, says, “Whilst there is currently no feasible alternative to Cellulose Acetate for filters, we continue to seek to reduce the impact of our products on the environment by investing and innovating to test and develop alternative materials, both internally and with third party suppliers.”