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With the copious amounts of cigarettes consumed every day throughout the world, one burning question (no pun intended) remains: what happens to the roughly 2.1 billion pounds of filters that are discarded each year? Unfortunately, when most people think of how cigarette butts are discarded, most immediate reactions are simple flicks in any direction rather than in the garbage. Many may think this is acceptable due to their paper appearance, and assume the breakdown will be quick. However, the truth is these butts contain cellulose acetate plastic, which takes years to break down naturally. As a matter of fact, the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup project collected just under 2 billion cigarette butts, cigar tips, and tobacco packaging in 2007 – that’s equal to 38% of debris WORLDWIDE!
Coupled with the fact that cigarette filters contain chemical residue and various toxins, we are looking at the most widespread human induced debris pollutant on the planet! This clear and present problem prompted a group of chemists to invent an alternative solution: inserting small of amounts of non-toxic acid in the filters to help expedite the degradation process. The trick was to combine an acid that not only worked to degrade the filter faster, but also did not compromise the smokers health or integrity of the product. The solution was to make an additive that was only activated once it became wet.
Lab testing revealed that the acid converted the filter plastic into a biodegradable material within 30 to 60 days, depending on temperature. Outside trials were not as successful, but did show significant filter degradation at the end of the 90-day trial as compared to an unadulterated butt.
While the results are promising, mass production of these modified filters is a long way away. While we at Safecig feel that electronic cigarettes may be the safest alternative for the health and environmentally conscious alike, we are observing this line of study closely and hope to see it’s progress.
For more information on the actual study, click this link http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/2012/06/2012-0725-biodegradable-cigarette-filters.