They’re everywhere -- so much a part of the landscape that you may have to focus for a moment to even notice them.
Trillions of cigarette butts are flicked and stomped to the ground each year, often by people who would never think of themselves as littering.
Contrary to popular belief, cigarette filters are not biodegradable. They’re made from cellulose acetate, a plastic that absorbs tobacco “tar” and eventually breaks down in the environment, but never loses its toxicity and can poison essential links in the aquatic food chain.
One company believes they can make an impact, however, by shovelling against the ever-growing mountain of butts.
TerraCycle, a worldwide company specializing in upcycling, has launched a program from its Toronto office to collect and recycle so-called cigarette waste in Canada. The program, in partnership with an unnamed tobacco manufacturer, is designed to gather up the debris that comes with cigarette butts -- as well as the foil and plastic from packaging -- and keep it out of landfills.
The collected waste, according to a press release, will be recycled into plastic pallets for industrial use. The company is also offering the public a rewards program where participants receive gift points for every pound of cigarette waste mailed in to TerraCycle.
"As a company committed to recycling waste streams that others deem worthless or unsavory, cigarette waste will help to promote our belief that everything can and should be recycled," said TerraCycle founder Tom Szaky. Szaky is also looking for ways to recycle disposable diapers and used chewing gum.
Next page: Reaction from the tobacco industry, anti-cigarette advocates