Cigarette butts continue to rank among the most common types of marine debris found. The Ocean Conservancy’s 2018 International Coastal Cleanup Report stated that 2,412,151 cigarette butts were collected worldwide in 2017. This is an increase from the 1,863,838 butts collected around the world in 2016.
Broken bottles, plastic toys, food wrappers ... during a walk along the coast one finds any of these items, and more. In all that litter, there is one item more common than any other: cigarette butts.
Cigarette butts are a pervasive, long-lasting, and a toxic form of marine debris. They primarily reach our waterways through improper disposal on beaches, rivers, and anywhere on land, transported to our coasts by runoff and stormwater. Once butts reach the beach, they may impact marine organisms and habitats.Most cigarette filters are made out of cellulose acetate, a plastic-like material that’s easy to manufacture, but not easy to degrade. The fibers in cigarette filters behave just like plastics in our oceans, the UV rays from our sun may break the fibers down into smaller pieces, but they don’t disappear. One solid filter ends up being thousands of tiny microplastics.
Here’s what you can do about keeping those cigarette butts, lighters and cigar tips from spoiling our ocean:
The NOAA Marine Debris Program is the U.S. Federal government's lead for addressing marine debris.