Cigarette butts filter tobacco smoke and are also a toxic cocktail that contaminates the surrounding fauna and flora thanks to the poisonous heavy metals substances they are made from (arsenic, nickel, chromium, mercury, etc).
According to #LivingCircular , “A single cigarette **** will pollute up to 500 liters of water and take 12 years to disappear”. Planetoscope estimates that “137 000 cigarette butts are thrown every second around the world”.
A solution to this problem has been provided by a team of researchers at the Royal Institute of Technology in Melbourne that discovered a sustainable way to recycle cigarette butts for improving bricks as well as roads. These research studies have been published firstly in the Journal of Waste Management (Elsevier, 2016) “ A practical proposal for solving the world’s cigarette **** problem: Recycling in fired clay bricks” and the Journal of Construction and Building Materials (Elsevier, 2017) “Physico-mechanical properties of asphalt concrete incorporated with encapsulated cigarette butts”.
According to the first paper mentioned above, a brick containing 1% cigarette butts needs less heat to cook and is more resistant to shocks than conventional bricks. On the other hand, the second study has been discovered that mixing butts with asphalt provides better endurance of the road and a solution to prevent temperatures rising having into account that the road surface emitted much less heat because it is retained by the butts. In order to prevent the toxic substances leaching out into the soil, the butts should be firstly encapsulated in a mixture of bitumen and paraffin before mixing them with asphalt.
On the other hand, taking these solutions from the research community into a sustainable business model, a French Start up based in Lyon, Cy-Clope , are currently delivering a solution for cigarette **** management. The start-up collects the cigarette butts and recycles them transferring the butts onto a treatment plant in Mende (Lozère) where they are recycled in partnership with TerraCycle . Cigarette butts are 100% recyclable: the ash, tobacco and paper are turned into compost while the plastic from the filter is re-used to make insulation boards for the construction industry, or industrial pallets.
All instruments are in place to reduce the environmental damage of cigarette butts.