Did you know that about 4.5 trillion cigarettes are discarded each year worldwide, making them the most littered item on Earth? A 2020 study undertaken by Peter Ryan of UCT found that South Africa follows the international trend of cigarette butts consistently being the most littered plastic item collected in urban and coastal clean-ups with South Africans consuming about 23.49 billion cigarettes each year and over 15 billion (almost 65%) cigarette butts are thrown away onto the streets and end up in waterways, beaches and the ocean.
When we think about the problem of plastics in the environment, we often overlook cigarette butts, which are one of the most aggressive polluters. In addition to being an obvious fire hazard, littered cigarette butts are toxic, as they contain nicotine, heavy metals, and many other chemicals, and, as the filter is made of a plastic called cellulose acetate, they do not biodegrade. This makes them hazardous for birds, marine and aquatic life as well as being detrimental to ground and other water sources. Birds, fish, and even curious children mistake littered cigarette butts for food
In 2020, World Cleanup Day (WCD) mobilized 11 million environmental heroes from 165 countries, making it the biggest mass event globally. Despite the national lockdown in South Africa incredible results were still achieved and this year the organisers are not only aiming to go bigger and better but are including a specific focus on cigarette butts in their campaign.
ocean-i™ together with Maxibin have partnered with
Go the Extra Mile (GEM) for WCD 2021 to drive awareness around not only the excessive threat cigbutts pose to the environment but also the transition from a linear (take-make-waste) to a circular (resources are re-used over and over again, without ending up in waste dumps and oceans) economy, specifically for cigbutts.
For WCD 2021, Maxibin will be collecting the cigbutts from designated collection points*. The collected cigbutts will be processed by CRDC Global, who have developed a process that recycles plastic into an additive which substitutes the sand in concrete. As cigbutts are a form of plastic,
ocean-i™ successfully trailed them in the CRDC process, resulting in the first viable solution for recycling cigarette butts in South Africa. The end product is used in the manufacture of ocean-i™’s cigarette butt bins and concrete benches. The process of recycling the butts is a real game changer as it is much more cost effective and less water intensive than alternative technology that exists in the US and France and more notably creates a zero-waste circular solution for cigarette butts!!