Even as the Clean India campaign is going on in the country, thousands of smokers don’t think twice about leaving a trail of cigarette litter behind them. The main two reasons are lack of awareness on the smoker’s part (they don’t think of cigarette butts as litter), and the lack of availability of waste receptacles at transition locations, such as outside stores and other buildings, and at public transportation pickup spots.
The core of most cigarette filters, the part that looks like white cotton, is actually a form of plastic called cellulose acetate. By itself, cellulose acetate is very slow to degrade in our environment. Depending on the conditions of the area the cigarette butt is discarded in, it can take 18 months to 10 years for a cigarette filter to decompose. The non-biodegradable nature of cigarette butts, a hazardous solid waste, makes it a challenging area to address. The butts also contain dangerous chemicals such as cadmium, arsenic, and lead.
According to the India Tobacco Fact Sheet 2018 R4 – World Health Organization, there are 266.8 million people in India who are tobacco users. Among them, 10.7% are tobacco smokers which numbers to 28.54 million. A typical daily smoker in India smokes an average of 6.8 cigarettes every day. That amounts to 288.6 million cigarettes smoked per day by Indian. That means daily 288.6 million cigarette litter is thrown away on the streets of India.
This toxic waste ends up on our streets, in our drains, and in our water. Research has shown that harmful chemicals leached from discarded butts, which include nicotine, arsenic and heavy metals, can be acutely toxic to aquatic organisms. Cigarette butts are the top collected item of the litter in annual ocean clean-ups. The toxic chemical it releases also pollutes the water of rivers and oceans. Just imagine how much damage it is doing to the environment including birds, insects, and aquatic organisms.
In India, a Noida-based company named as ‘CODE’, founded by Naman Gupta and Vishal Kanet, is already working on recycling of the cigarette butts and so far they were able to collect 500 – 600 kgs of butts (which might be few percents of total cigarette litter in India) and recycled 40-50 kgs. Code provides user collection units called VBins to the customers in which they can collect cigarette waste. After every 15 days, the company’s garbage collector will go to the waste generator’s location and collect the garbage. Once the cigarette waste is collected, it is split up – the tobacco which is often left behind and the paper covering the cigarette butt are decomposed and left to yield manure, the filter is recycled by a treatment process. The procured manure is often sold to the gardeners and the treated filters which are 99.9% safe are used in making the stuffing for toys and cushions, and other packaging materials.
What if a company (which might be founded by you) that collects the cigarette litter from the public spaces in India and develops a machine which is quick in the recycling process and the treatments it requires in order to convert it into manure or making toys. There are also chances that this output product of the machine might be used in different applications which are yet to be discovered.
Your thoughts and actions would solve a major problem which is impacting the environment and misbalancing the eco-system. It will not only contribute to making our India a clean country but also you will be contributing to the social good for our country at large.
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