Thursday, August 08, 2019

#FillThe Bottle campaign a laudable start to demonizing cigarette butt littering

Kudos to a group of French teens who are trying to viralize (is that a word? well, it is now...) their campaign to stigmatize cigarette butt littering. The #FillTheBottle campaign encourages people to fill a water bottle with cigarette butts collected off the ground, and to circulate the "yuck" photos on social media, and it has already been taken up by thousands of people around the world.
Cigarette filters (or butts) have been described by a recent scientific study as "the most abundant form of anthropogenic litter on the planet". The filters are made from cellulose acetate, a synthetic product commercially derived from wood pulp. British American Tobacco claims that the filters take a few months to three years to biodegrade; the Keep Britain Tidy charity says it is more like 18 months to 10 years. They also say that plastics, lead, arsenic and nicotine leak from the filters over that period, affecting the environment and particularly doing harm to fish and other marine life. A photo of a seabird feeding a cigarette butt to its chick went viral quite recently.
It's certainly a pet peeve of mine, and I find it extraordinary how cavalier people are about throwing out butts, even when there is a good alternative disposal option nearby (which is rare, I have to say). You see people throwing them on sidewalks and roads without a thought, many of them people who would almost certainly not litter in other ways. Interestingly, the butts can actually be recycled, and the #FillTheBottle campaign is working with a French company called M√©Go that processes and recycles cigarette filters. There is a proposal in Germany to charge a deposit on cigarettes, which can be reclaimed once the butts are returned, although it is still far from a working model.
I know that taking pictures of cigarette butts in plastic water bottles is probably not going to save the world, but here's hoping it makes a few people think twice before they do it. And would someone please tell my next door neighbour who goes though the process many times a day right in front of our house.

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