At the end of August, the latest report from the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) pointed out that the world's largest man-made pollutants were not plastic straws, nor plastic bags, but cigarette butts.
Cigarettes are not only ubiquitous, but largely the disposal of current cigarette butts is not regulated. This means that the almost unpredictable number of cigarettes will flow to the ocean. But many individuals and organizations are working to change that.
The report cited a cigarette butt contamination project, hoping to ban the use of cellulose filters made of Cellulose Acetate, a plastic that may take more than a decade to break down. Nearly two-thirds of the 5.6 trillion cigarettes produced each year using such filters are discarded at will. In fact, since 1986, only more than 60 million cigarette butts have been collected.
According to statistics, plastic bottles, covers, plastic forks, and plastic food packaging at the seaside account for only one-third of the recycled materials.
NBC interviewed Thomas Novotny, founder and public health professor of the event. He said that filters do not bring health benefits, but rather as a marketing tool while making people "easier to smoke."
And, not just those who are aware of the potential hazards of the filter. According to reports, tobacco companies themselves are also targeting biodegradable filters and dispensing portable ashtrays to avoid liability for cigarette waste. But so far, these efforts have not been successful, and smokers tend to use cigarette filters.
While tobacco companies and some start-ups are continuing to look for alternatives to alternative cigarette waste, Novotny and others are working to pass legislation that bans cigarette filters. But so far, attempts to pass legislation have failed. The reason for the failure is largely due to the fact that many legislators have received campaign contributions from the tobacco industry.