All but a few of the smokers I know routinely toss their used cigarette butts on the ground, whether they are in a car, strolling around town or smoking outside a business. Even some very green, progressive peeps.
I've heard all the excuses: "They just biodegrade," "They're so small," "Everyone does it," "I have no other place to put it," "The city pays people to clean them up," "They make this town seem hardcore," "What do you want me to do with it, put it in my purse? That's nasty!"...
Luckily, the Chicago Tribune has a fantastic article on why my friends are being douchebags. The paper notes how cigarette butts litter Chicago's gorgeous beaches, even taunting "No Smoking" signs. To crack down on buttheads, the city has passed a law carrying fines of $500 if an offender is caught tossing one within 15 feet of a beach (Earlier laws mandate fines up to $200 in other city areas).
What's the big deal? The Trib points out that used butts are actually quite toxic. They take up to 15 years to breakdown -- but that doesn't mean they actually biodegrade. Instead, they become tiny filter particles, which clog up ecosystems with even more plastics and man-made gunk. Of course, before they break down, butts can also pose risk to animals, who mistake them for marshmallowy goodness or other edibles.
An estimated 1.7 billion pounds of cigarette butts gum up the world's waterways a year, delivering nicotine, heavy metals, benzene and other carcinogens, along with plastic fibers. No wonder many ducks and geese seem cranky. All that nasty stuff in those filters can also enter our drinking water supplies, where it can be tricky to remove (think of second-hand pollution).
Learn more hard numbers about butt pollution here.
Of course, don't forget that tossing butts is also one of the biggest causes of forest fires, which have been increasing in intensity in recent years.
Don't litter your butts, and tell your butthead friends not to do it either. Don't be rude and crude.
This is a new post in the new blog URTH Guy, about green Urban Style, Recycling and Reuse, Technology and E-Culture and (hopefully) some Humor. Stay tuned for further posts and design upgrades.
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