Cigarette Butts that Sprout Flowers

I just can’t comprehend that in 2014, in an age where people recycle, compost, and use public garbage bins, throwing your cigarette butt on the ground after use is still common and not frowned upon.  There are about 4.9M smokers in Canada alone. Daily smokers smoke roughly an average of 14 cigarettes per day. Assuming that only 1% of these cigarette butts are thrown into the wild, this would represent more than 250M cigarette butts thrown out annually in Canada. This is pure non-sense. Cigarettes are by far the most littered item in the world and billions are littered every day. In its most recent litter survey, the Keep America Beautiful found that cigarettes were the single largest item littered on roadways, accounting for 38% of the total. In 2012, the International Coastal Cleanup released 25 years’ worth of data (1987-2012), indicating that cigarettes and cigarette butts constituted over 30% of the total pieces of garbage collected, or two times more than any other category. Littered cigarette butts are also often the cause of forest fires. The last time I was in Yosemite I could not see the beautiful valley because of a gigantic forest fire that destroyed vast sections of the park.

Today I saw someone throw a cigarette on the sidewalk (it happens daily), and I thought to myself that there ought to be a simple solution to this problem. What about a small personal leak-proof pocket container where you can place your cigarette butts, I thought?? A Google search quickly revealed that such products already exist. This Australian company can personalize their ‘’Mini-Butts’’ personal ashtrays with company logos, since ‘’employees littering their butts when they’re out and about and representing their company – especially when in uniform, company vehicle, or wearing a hard-hat, etc. – or simply standing outside their premises having a smoke’’ can affect corporate image.

Cigarette filters are recyclable but the process is complex and costly. The paper and leftover tobacco are manually removed and composted. The rest is shredded, put into a machine that removes toxic chemicals, melted and remade as industrial pallets. We do need to salute some recycling efforts. Current cigarette filters, made of cellulose acetate, are technically biodegradable but the process takes about 10 to 15 years. A startup called Greenbutts has developed a patent-pending biodegradable filter made out of natural materials (flax, hemp, cotton, starch). But will the tobacco industry adopt those filters? Not satisfied with creating a biodegradable filter, Greenbutts has created a new green butt that, when placed under a thin layer of soil, sprouts into green grass shoots or even blooming flowers. The company encourages users to collect their green butts in a planter instead of an ashtray and watch them grow into green grass shoots or flowers. This is kind of cool…

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