Cigarette buts are one of the largest sources of trash in the world. it is estimated that roughly 5.6 trillion cigarettes are smoked every year worldwide, and the vast majority of them, about 4.5 trillion cigarette butts, end up becoming litter. In Cape Town, South Africa, where trash and litter is an especially serious problem, a local initiative has started, which seeks to keep the litter issue on people’s minds as they consider where to throw their cigarette butts.
The effort is called “Kiickbutt” and involves the placement of giant pieces of wood painted like cigarette butts to keep people conscious of the their litter habits. The giant fake cigarette butt replicas were made from old telephone poles that were recently cut down, so they were the perfect shape of a cylinder.
Clive Amsel, CEO of a company called WRAPP, which stands for Waste Recycling Application, says that he wants to encourage positive behavior in a way that is subtle but still very noticeable.
“There are cigarette butts strewn all along the Platteklip Gorge trail leading to the top of Table Mountain. I have personally collected a two litre bottle full of them while hiking up there recently,” Amsel said.
In addition to the unsightly litter and possible ecological problems that it poses, discarded cigarette butts also present a potential fire hazard.
“It also creates a fire hazard when people throw them away while they are still smoldering,” Amsel said.
It is unclear exactly how long a cigarette butt takes to decompose. Scientists estimate that it could take anywhere from 18 months to 10 years to decompose, depending upon the brand and other variables.
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Most cigarette butts are made of a type of plastic called cellulose acetate, and discarded butts also contain all of the harmful chemicals that were in the cigarette to begin with. According to the Ocean Conservatory, cigarette butts represent the largest source of pollution on beaches.
Photos courtesy of WRAPP