Cigarette Butts Are A Greater Source of Pollution Than Plastic Straws, a New Report Says

If you’ve hopped on the anti-straw bandwagon, well, there’s another cause for you to endorse.

Worldwide, 4.5 trillion cigarettes are thrown away every year. According to the Truth Initiative, in 2016 alone, 1,030,630 cigarette butts were collected from U.S. beaches and waterways, making up nearly a quarter of all garbage found in our oceans. Cigarette butts have been known to be toxic to fish, dogs and children, even when consumed in small quantities.

And when cigarettes make their way to our waterways, it’s a whole other story. On Monday, a report by NBC News named cigarette butts the single greatest source of ocean pollution — above the much-maligned plastic straws. According to a report by the Ocean Conservancy, cigarette butts are the most common item collected on beaches, while plastic straws and stirrers rank seventh on the list.


Cigarette butts, also known as filters, are made of cellulose acetate, a type of plastic that never biodegrades. They serve no purpose other than psychological manipulation, since they’re used as a marketing tool to give the impression of a healthier cigarette, according to Thomas Novotny, CEO of the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project. “It’s pretty significant fraud. The word ‘filter’ means that it’s actually taking something out of the smoke that’s being inhaled,” Novotny said over the phone. “But there’s no evidence of that. In fact, a type of lung cancer that’s far more aggressive is probably the result of that filter.”

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