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Facts about Cigarette Litter

Think cigarette litter is no big deal? Think again. 

  • Cigarette butts are the #1 most littered item in the entire world, with more than 4 trillion a year, and almost 12 billion being littered every day. 
  • They are not biodegradable. It is a common misconception that cigarettes are made from just plants (trees, tobacco and cotton) and therefore will simply biodegrade when thrown on the ground. This is not true. Cigarette companies found it was cheaper and more efficient to make filters from plastic. Cigarette filters are contributing to the accumulation of plastic in our environment and do not biodegrade
  • Cigarettes littered on the landscape are often carried by rain into storm drains, where they make their way into our rivers and eventually the ocean. 
  • Cigarette filters are designed to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals that enter a smoker's lungs when they inhale. Is a result, these chemicals - which include arsenic, formaldehyde, and acetone - collect in the filter. Once littered in the environment, these trace amounts of chemicals can leach into our soil and our water. 
  • While larger species may mistake the plastic filters for food, the chemicals leached from the filter can poison small aquatic organisms that are important to the food chain. In this way, cigarette butts can harm an ecosystem at multiple levels. 

For more information on the environmental impacts of cigarette litter, visit our Research page. 


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