When you think about pollution in our planet’s oceans, what’s the first thing to come to mind? I often picture plastic bottles. But as Business Insider recently pointed out, the number one source of trash in our oceans is actually cigarette butts.
Many smokers simply deposit cigarette butts on the ground when they’re done smoking for a few reasons. Most people don’t go to the effort of extinguishing their smokes, so they don’t put them in a trash can for fear of starting a fire. On top of that, public ashtrays are rarer than they once were, so they’re often difficult to find on the street.
Many cigarette filters contain a non-biodegradable type of plastic called cellulose acetate that doesn’t break down over time and instead washes into waterways. And you know all those people you see smoking on the beach? Those butts end up directly in the ocean.
It’s estimated that about 60 million cigarette butts have been removed from the ocean since the 1980s. Cigarette filters still contain many of the harmful materials that cigarettes have including arsenic, lead, and nicotine. This can have even more negative effects on marine life.
It’s up to smokers to dispose of their cigarette butts in the proper manner. If you want to keep smoking, but are feeling to urge to be greener, a company called TerraCycle will send smokers a recycling repository designed to collect ashes and filters. This is a situation where it’s definitely better to have it if you need it.