Plastic straws and bags have received widespread attention as pollutants. But another, even bigger, plastic problem has been slipping under the radar — cigarette filters.
Cigarette butts containing plastic filters are the most littered item in the world.“Many smokers assume the filters are made of a biodegradable material,” says Elizabeth Smith, who works on tobacco control policy at the University of California San Francisco.In fact, filters are made of cellulose acetate — a type of plastic that can take up to a decade to decompose.Cigarette butts collect in drains and are washed into waterways.But now the European Union is cracking down on this hidden problem. New rules will require the tobacco industry to fund the cleaning up of cigarette stubs, as part of a broader initiative to reduce single-use plastic items.Cigarette filters are poisoning our environment — but do they do anything to help smokers’ lungs?
The scale of the problem
Photo: Brian Yurasits
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