Marine litter is a global concern, affecting the coastal and marine environment. Cigarette butts (CBs) are the most littered item in the worldand their presence along the Greek coastline is a very common phenomenon.
Approximately 5.6 trillion filtered cigarettes are smoked every year worldwide and an estimated amount of 4.5 trillion end up as litter. Apart from causing aesthetic degradation, cigarette litter causes serious environmental and socio-economic impacts.
are non-biodegradable, as most people think. Composed of cellulose acetate, a type of plastic, CBs only break down into smaller and smaller plastic fragments (“microplastics”) that are accumulating in the natural environment in alarming quantities.
contain numerous hazardous chemicals, such as nicotine, cadmium, lead and arsenic, which are partially filtered out during smoking. When the butts are discarded, these chemicals leach into the environment adding to the existing water and soil pollution and posing a threat to wildlife. Birds, fish, turtles and marine mammals often ingest CBs. This may lead to reduction in the food intake due to a false sense of satiation, blockage of the digestive tract and toxic chemical poisoning. Such an exposure can have various adverse effects, ranging from general debilitation, to starvation and death. Sometimes even young children accidentally ingest CBs.
Furthermore, CBs are frequent cause of fires when carelessly discarded.