I'm about to tell you something pretty alarming. Two things actually:
1. Cigarette butts don't decompose.
Like, EVER. I don't know why this comes as such a shock to me. All those years of casually smoking and dropping cigarette butts out the car window or putting them out in the gutter are making me cringe right now. I was young, sure, but how did I not think about what would happen long term? I must have justified it in my mind - it's just one teeny tiny little butt... - and never, until very recently, thought about whether or not they would decompose.
Now I know.
Traditional cigarette butts are made of synthetic polymer cellulose acetate which breaks apart after about a dozen year but never fully biodegrades. Since the smokers on Earth go through about 4.3 TRILLION cigarettes a year (and about 30% of those butts end up on the ground), that's somewhere around 500,000 TONS of pollution. Every. Single. Year.
Doesn't seem so teeny tiny now.
And, that might not even be the worst part...
2. The majority of these discarded cigarette butts end up washing into our rivers and streams during rains.
On the surface this sounds terrible: who wants little bits of trash floating around a fresh water stream? But the problem goes so much deeper.
Cigarette filters, by design, accumulate toxins. So just one tiny butt can contain up to 60 known human carcinogens, including formaldehyde and chromium. Within an hour of contact with water, these chemicals begin leaching into the environment.
That's our water!
They also end up being eaten by fish, birds, and other wildlife...including children! When we took the boys canoeing on the Harpeth a couple years ago, we had to swat cigarette butts out of Finn's little hands more than once. He just couldnt figure out what was up with all the soft white rocks on shore! I'm thankful he was no longer in the phase where everything had to go in his mouth because that would have been really gross. Not to mention, incredibly dangerous.
So, what to do? Thankfully Nashville Clean Water Project has some ideas. They've teamed up with TerraCycle to turn Nashville's cigarette butts into industrial shipping pallets. How cool is that?! They have a great plan but they can't do it alone. Please check out their Indiegogo campaign and consider making a contribution. There are lots of great prizes (like a $5 Whole Foods gift card for a $15 donation!) and you can be part of helping make Nashville's rivers and streams clean and toxin free.
Thank you, friends!