The world has become aware of plastic straws recently when it comes to ocean waste, despite them accounting for just 0.02 percent of ocean waste. But there are bigger fish to fry.
One of those appears to be cigarette butts, according to a report by NBC News. They reported it was the number one human-caused contaminant in the world’s oceans, and it has managed to avoid regulation so far.
The filters of the 5.6 trillion cigarettes made around the world each year are composed of cellulose acetate, which can take more than a decade to decompose.
Cigarette butts contain dangerous chemicals such as arsenic, lead and nicotine—the same chemicals found in secondhand smoke.
Improperly discarded butts are a danger to children, pets and wildlife.
Washed into waterways, they’re also toxic to fresh and saltwater organisms.
Field biologists and wildlife rehabilitators routinely find butts in the intestines of dead or sick seabirds, sea turtles, fish and dolphins, according to the Ocean Conservancy.
Getting smokers to stop flicking the ends of their cigarettes is difficult, with anti-litter campaigns and permanent ashtrays being largely unsuccessful all over the world.
The only possible solution is for cigarette companies to change their ways. It’s time for the tobacco industry to take responsibility for their toxic waste instead of relying on local governments and volunteers. They need to remove or revise plastic filters.
Go to www.signuptocleanup.org to learn how you can join hundreds of thousands of other volunteers to comb lakes, rivers and beaches around the world for trash, including these noxious, ever-present cigarette butts.