Cigarette Butt Litter on the Beach
It is a rare occasion nowadays to be able to scroll through your Facebook time line or see the news without stumbling across something that is not marine conservation or single use plastic related.
With a change for the future of our planet and oceans, receiving worldwide attention and the prominence it deserves. One very small thing however, that is sadly not highlighted are cigarette butts and how much of an environmental impact really is in a pack.
Cigarette Butts Trash on the Beach
It is estimated that around 6 trillion cigarettes are manufactured each year and 90% of those are made with filters containing plastics.
To give you an idea this is around 1.7 billion Kgs and with cigarette butts being the most littered item in the world, this is always going to be a problem.
Sadly over the years tossing a cigarette butt on the floor has been the most widely accepted form of littering. This is mostly down to a huge misconception that cigarette butts are degradable and the earth will take over the rest for us.
Studies and research have shown that the fastest a cigarette butt can fully degrade is 18 months with some taking up to 10 years. This is of course if it ends up straight into the earth.
The not so great migration
With around 65% of all cigarette butts littered, a problem our oceans are facing is that due to rain causing run off most of these cigarette butts go on a migration of their own.
Travelling through drainage systems into rivers and streams eventually ending up in our oceans and over time finding their final resting place on our beloved beaches.
With one in ten cigarette butts reaching a body of water it really is hard tell the untold damage that is causing to marine life.
One toxic tip can pollute 7.5 litres of water within its first hour causing irreversible damage to all marine life and microorganisms nearby due to contents like arsenic, ammonia and lead.
What can WE do about Toxic Cigarette Butt trash?
The most effective practical way of change is to dispose of butts in the correct manner. Using nearby ashtrays or holding on to them in your packet until you are near one. This in itself would have dramatic changes to the way they end up travelling into our waterways.
With recycling rates rising and conservation efforts being pushed into local communities and schools it really is a powerful thing to see what a difference can be achieved when a group of people work together.
Land clean ups, beach clean ups and upcycling are all easy effective way to help make today a better tomorrow.
Koh Tao and Cigarette Butt Clean Ups
Being such a heavily populated Island of scuba diving enthusiasts the Ocean is very close to our heart of course. Caring for the Ocean and instilling this knowledge and awareness into teaching diving courses is a daily occurrence.
Beach clean-up events are happening all over the Island and it is easy and fun way to make that difference.
30-Minute Cigarette Butt Challenge
At Eco Koh Tao a ’30 Minute Cigarette Butt Challenge’ is set. This is a great fun and fast way to clean up our beaches and surrounding areas to help protect our wonderful underwater world.
The rules of are simple, set yourself a time limit of 30 minutes and see how many littered butts can be collected in this time frame.
It is a healthy competition for our environment and for yourself. You can compete against your own personal record, your friends, or in a team if you have a group of people.
Working in conjunction with Eco Koh Tao this fun game after getting such a positive response is a part of the many regular ECO Activities.
Divemaster Candidates are regularly getting involved as part of their Divemaster Course and the activity counts as one of the five ECO points that need to be collected by the end of their course.
After the time limit is up everyone gets together and counts out to see whom the overall winner is. The total amount is then recorded and used as data for Eco Koh Tao.
By doing this in the morning at slack low tide, it is easy to see how many other things end up being washed-up on the beach and if your karma is good, you may find something useful.
Get Beers for Cigarette Butt Trash
If you are visiting Koh Tao and would like to get involved there are beach clean-ups happening Island wide nearly every day, set up and managed by conservation organisations and dive schools.
However, it does not stop there. One non-diving related company on this Island that is joining the movement is The Beer Masons located in Sairee.
The Beer Masons is a small bar that offers worldwide craft beers and other imported beverages.
They are getting in on the action by converting their empty Beer and Cider key kegs into cigarette trash bins. Offering them out to dive centres and restaurants free of charge they set a challenge of their own.
For anyone who fills one of these kegs and returns it back to the ‘Beer Masons’ they will pay for it to go back to the mainland for proper toxic and hazardous waste disposal.
The cigarette Butt Challenge is a great way to do some good, so get involved in the fun and do some good.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do cigarettes do to the Ocean?
Cigarette filters are made from micro plastics and also contain other harmful chemicals. Not only do cigarette butts provide a choking hazard to marine life such as sea turtles but they leach chemicals into the water meaning they are dangerous to many forms of marine life.
What is cigarette pollution?
Smoking cigarettes causes air pollution as it releases dangerous toxins and pollutants into the air. Discarded cigarette butts also pollute, littering the environment with dangerous toxins seeping into soil and waterways.
Can I get involved in land clean ups?
Local businesses and dive centres, alongside local government and international organizations are regularly organizing land, beach and dive site clean ups on Koh Tao. Ask at any of the dive centres on Koh Tao for more information. We are always looking for volunteers!
How do cigarette butts end up in the ocean?
Humans failing to dispose of their cigarette butts in a responsible manner. On Koh Tao we pick up hundreds of cigarette butts every day. Sadly these are left by uneducated tourists and locals. Its estimated that over 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered every year, and many of these will end up in our oceans. Cigarette butts are the ocean’s single largest source of trash and once in the water they release pollutants such as nicotine, arsenic and lead.