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Mel's Mess: Cigarette Butts

In 2023, 38,613 more cigarette butts were picked up by the Surfrider Foundation than in 2022 (152, 041). The ICC reported globally over 1.1M Cigarette Butts had been collected in 2022 via their Clean Swell App.

How are they made: 

Cigarette Butts are primarily made of a plastic called cellulose acetate

How long does it take to break down: 

It can take up to 12 years for one cigarette butt to break down

Why is it bad for the environment: 

Top two reasons on my list:

1. Cigarette butts can leach chemicals such as cadmium, lead and arsenic into our marine environment within an hour of contact with water.

2. Cigarette butts have been found in the stomachs of fish, whales, birds and other marine animals which leads to ingestion of the aforementioned chemicals and cause digestive blockages.

What can be done: Stop smoking! Only smokers can eradicate this form of litter. If it's too difficult to quit, then ensure you bin your butts; if you see them littered around, drop them in the nearest bin preventing them from being caught up in the sea and storm drains.

Join me down this rabbit hole of research:


  • CBC News, "Think before you flick — cigarette butts aren't biodegradable"