Food & Travel, Shopping & Consumption

#CutTheCrap, #NoMoreButts: The Big Impact of Little Butts


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Photo c/o Surfista Travels

Muni on this:

It is not unlikely that everyday, you see a stranger or a friend put their cigarette butt out on the ground and leave it there. Have you wondered how many people in the world probably do the same thing? And where their dirty, non-biodegradable butts go after that?

Discarded cigarette butts are typically carried by wind and rain as runoff from streets to drains, to rivers, and ultimately to the ocean and its beaches. [1] The annual Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) reports that “cigarette butts have been the single most recovered item since collections began”. [2]

Furthermore, cigarette filters have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, whales and other marine creatures who mistake them for food. And being composed of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic, cigarette butts can last as long as other forms of plastic, and therefore not be digested by these animals. [3]

This trailer for Midway, a film by Chris Jordan says it all about how all the rubbish (cigarette butts included) we throw out to the world winds up in the stomachs of faultless birds.

MIDWAY : trailer : a film by Chris Jordan from Midway on Vimeo.

The Bigger Impact of Butts

According to cigwaste.org, there are now some 5.5 trillion cigarettes are consumed globally in a year, and of these, some 4.95 trillion filters are deposited somewhere in the environment worldwide. And in a study published in the Bulletin of the American Littoral Society in 2000, they computed the weight and volume of discarded filters and found that:

  • 20 filters (one pack)= 0.12 oz (10 ml)
  • 10,000 filters = 1.7 kg (5 liters)
  • 5.5 trillion filters =935 million kg / 935 tons (2.75 billion liters) of butt litter

This is 935 million kilograms that we all could have prevented from getting washed down drainage pipes, flushed out to sea, and coming back on our beach shores and causing the deaths of various birds and marine life.

No More If Only’s, What If’s or Butts!

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I strongly feel like there aren’t any excuses for inaction once presented with this information. “If only I could make a difference”, “What if people don’t listen to me?”. Worry about that later. What’s important is that you just act on this new information, and you will make a difference. You don’t have to participate in beach cleanups on your weekends (though it’d be awesome if you did), but live with a cleanup mentality everyday. Here are simple things you can do:

  • If you smoke, don’t litter. I’m not judging anyone for smoking. However, I would give a look of disapproval if I saw a smoker adding to land and sea pollution too by discarding his/her non-biodegradable butt wherever. Would he/she do that on the floor of his/her own home? If no, then why is it okay to do it anywhere else? If yes, then…that person’s home must be gross.
  • If you have friends who smoke, encourage them to responsibly dispose of their butts. Maybe even tell them some of the sad / shocking factoids in this article.
  • Bring around an empty film canister. This is for smokers and non-smokers alike. Chances are, you’ll come across someone looking for an ashtray or whatnot, and an empty film canister is small and does the job. Just plop your butt in, seal, and shake.
  • Pick up butts. (Not saying you should demoralize women and start grabbing *sses, but that) if you find it in you to pick up random pieces of trash whether on the street, at the beach, or while diving, people will notice. Actions do speak louder than words. And if you manage to pick up a butt right beside the irresponsible smoker who chucked it, hopefully, they’ll feel embarrassed, and think again before they litter.

What other ways can we cut the cigarette butt crap?


Jen HornJEN HORN (@nomadmanager) is a wanderer, writer, and designer out to build the MUNI community, create a culture of caring for self, others, and the planet, and make choosing better a way of life as MUNI’s Chief Collaborator. She is also a lover of handwoven textiles, and aims to keep weaving traditions alive through the use of Philippine textiles in modern fashion with her side project Tala Luna.