Home Science Climate Cigarette smokers are #1 litterers along world's coasts

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The Ocean Conservancy released its 2006 findings on 3.5 million kilograms (7.7 million pounds) of debris pickup up by volunteers along 55,500 kilometers (34,500 miles) of coastlines and waterways around the world. Cigarettes and cigarette butts account for about 25% of it.           

In 2006, volunteers from sixty-eight countries picked up about 3.5 million kilograms (7.7 million pounds) of debris in one day in September 2006. Cigarettes and cigarette butts accounted for about 0.9 million kilograms (1.9 million pounds) of this debris.

In fact, cigarettes and cigarette butts have been #1 on this list for the sixth consecutive year. In 2006, according to the Ocean Conservancy statistics, food wrappers and containers were the second most items thrown away and littered by people around the world.

Litter is defined as carelessly discarding refuse.

Litter and debris discarded by individuals and companies, whether intentionally or accidentally, cause death to more then one million sea birds and over 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles each year, according to estimates from officials of the Ocean Conservancy.

During the 2006 oceans and waterways cleanup effort, 1,073 animals were found dead or dying from being caught in debris. Only one animal survived its ordeal. Fishing gear such as netting, plastics such as balloons and bags, and cigarettes all cause problems with marine fish and animals. Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate (a type of plastic). They are not biodegradable as many smokers think they are. Cigarettes carelessly thrown away are considered litter, and litter is against the law in nearly all communities in the United States and in many other communities around the world.

The littering of our world and local communities are careless and illegal acts.

For more information on littering of cigarette butts, please go to the Clean Virginia Waterways (Longwood University) website “Cigarette Butts as Litter—Toxic as Well as Ugly” by Kathleen M. Register at: http://www.longwood.edu/cleanva/ciglitterarticle.htm.

According to the Ocean Conservancy, since 1986, over 6.5 million volunteers have picked up about 53 million kilograms (116 million pounds) of debris from beaches and waterways in 127 countries around the world.

On the good side, we have dedicated volunteers picking up other people’s trash and litter. On the bad side, we still have uncaring and selfish people and corporations who litter and dirty up our world and local communities.

Smokers top this bad list of people who litter and make our world and local communities look ugly from discarded cigarette butts. Just look down on the roadway when you are stopped at an intersection. Cigarette butts are no doubt present there every day.

Other common litter items includes candy and gum wrappers, paper towels, food wastes, chip bags, aluminum and steel beer/soda cans, leather, rubber, clothing, textiles, wood, glass and metal projectiles, blown tires and treads, springs, vehicular and brake parts, drive shafts and bumpers.

According to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/), litter tends to be found “…near intersections or crossroads, where a stop or reduced speed is required, and near beer and package stores, farmers markets, shopping centers, beaches, fast food places and solid waste dumps.”

The website of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup is: http://www.oceanconservancy.org/site/PageServer?pagename=press_icc&JServSessionIdr009=7lhc13un4a.app7b.

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William Atkins

William Atkins completed educational degrees in science (bachelor’s in physics and mathematics) from Illinois State University (Normal, United States) and business (master’s in entrepreneurship and bachelor’s in industrial relations) from Western Illinois University

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