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Cigarette butt, what's next?

The habbit of some has an effect on all of us, unless we take care of cigarette waste. And that is exactly what we did at Surfana festival, June 2018. The festival, with its beautiful set up in the middle of the dunes, has the aim to have the least amount of effect on the environment as possible. Apart from setting up and facilitating a monostream of compost waste & recyclables, we wanted to manage the cigarettes. Cigarette waste is often neglected even though cigarette butts have a huge impact on the environment. Some facts:


- The core of 95% of cigarette filters, the part that looks like white cotton, is actually a form of plastic called cellulose acetate. It can take 18 months to 10+ years for a cigarette filter to

decompose.

In practice, cigarette filters don’t decompose, they break down into smaller pieces of waste

which dilute into our water & soil.


- Cigarette butts wash into storm drains which flow into creeks, rivers and oceans.

A single cigarette butt can contaminate up to 8L of water directly while it takes up to 500L of water to fully neutralize all the toxins in a cigarette butt.


- Cigarette butts can be a point source for heavy metal contamination in water. Organic compounds such as nicotine, pesticide residues and metal, seep from cigarette butts

into aquatic ecosystems, becoming acutely toxic to fish and microorganisms.

Cigarette filters are a threat to wildlife. They have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds,

whales and other marine animals. This can lead to serious digestive problems and even

death of marine life.


As surfers we want to keep our water & playground clean. In coorporation with Kartent we facilitated a separate waste stream for cigarette butts. Cigarette tubes (https://kartent.com/product/cigarette-tube/) were set up across the festival terrain. The collected butts gave us a measurable insight in the volumes and the opportunity to recycle/upcycle and take the butts to the next step. They were sent to a partner in France, who is able to transform the butts into plastic pallets and parkbenches for example.


By implementing our strategy we saved a several thousand cigarette butts from ending up in our coastal environment and prevented even more liters of water from being polluted. So now you know, you might be sitting on a cigarette butt collected at Surfana the next time you strike down on a parkbench somewhere in France.

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