The Blog Aquatic » cigarette butts News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Wed, 27 Aug 2014 07:00:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 It’s Not My Fault I’m a Butt Guy Mon, 19 Nov 2012 19:56:36 +0000 Nick Mallos It’s impossible not to be if you work in the ocean trash world. Every year International Coastal Cleanup volunteers pickup more cigarette butts off our beaches than any other item by an order of magnitude. Since the Cleanup’s inception in 1986, cigarette butts have been the number one item on Ocean Conservancy’s annual Top Ten list, which highlights the most persistent items of ocean trash found globally. And while 2012 Cleanup data are still being compiled, I suspect cigarette butts will retain their title for another year.

What’s the big deal you might ask? Well inside each of those butts is a filter—unfiltered cigarettes excluded—made of cellulose acetate, a slow-degrading plastic. These plastic fibers are packed tightly together to create a filter, which often resembles cotton in appearance. So even though Cleanup volunteers have kept more than 55 million cigarette butts off beaches and out of the ocean over the years, the ultimate fate of these tiny plastics is still the landfill because there’s simply no value in a butt…or is there?

This week TerraCycle and Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., the maker of Natural American Spirit cigarettes and a subsidiary of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, announced a partnership that gives a second life to butts. The partnership creates a take back system through TerraCycle’s Cigarette Waste Brigade program, where butts are recycled into resin pellets that will then be used to manufacture a verity of industrial products, such as plastic shipping pallets and park benches. Any tobacco or organic material remaining from the cigarette butt will be re-worked into tobacco composting.

The Cigarette Waste Brigade initiative underscores the notion that trash is simply too valuable to toss. It also emphasizes the fact that everyone has a role to play in stopping ocean trash. An issue as pervasive as ocean trash requires cooperation from corporations, organizations and consumers at large. For consumers, reducing consumption and choosing reusable and alternative products is the best option, but in circumstances where no alternatives exist—like cigarette butts—ingenuity and commitment from industry are necessary. Just as consumers have a responsibility to properly and responsibly dispose of items, industry has an obligation to ensure a product does not simply become trash at the end of its life.

Our landfills have had enough. The time has come to commit ourselves to diverting waste from the ultimate burial ground, and make certain we renew a products life whenever possible.

And in the case of cigarette butts, it seems only fitting that the park bench you or I might park our rears in the near future is really just a bunch of old butts.

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Cartoonist Jim Toomey Explains How Trash Gets Into Our Ocean Thu, 13 Sep 2012 19:44:43 +0000 Catherine Fox

When I interviewed cartoonist Jim Toomey recently about his comic strip Sherman’s lagoon, which features Sherman the lovable great white shark, I discovered that his passion for conservation extends to every aspect of the ocean.

This week, as we look forward to Ocean Conservancy’s 27th International Coastal Cleanup this Saturday, September 15, we want to share his latest project, a two-minute video he’s produced with our long-time Cleanup partner, the United Nations Environment Programme, to tell people about ocean trash.

UNEP’s Regional Office for North America is producing a whole series of short videos to raise ocean awareness. Jim delivers these bite-size ocean lessons with humor, making them fun with the help of his colorful cartoon friends.

You’ll learn about how trash travels, and how it threatens wildlife and ocean health. You’ll also learn how you can help. Jim recommends joining cleanups—great timing, Jim!  We’d like to invite you to participate in the International Coastal Cleanup this Saturday, so go online and find an event near you.  

Information collected by volunteers during the International Coastal Cleanup helps identify just what’s trashing our ocean. For example, over the past 26 years International Coastal Cleanup volunteers have picked up 55 million cigarette butts. Stacked vertically, they’d make a tower as tall as 3,613 Empire State Buildings. And that’s just one item.

Clearly, cleaning up is not enough; we can all help prevent trash from reaching the water in the first place. Reduce your own trash through simple steps like remembering to take along reusuable shopping bags or coffee cups.

Ocean Conservancy is here to help, offering tips on our website, Facebook and Twitter. And we’re very excited to invite you to download our brand-new iPhone app Rippl, free on iTunes. Customize the app to match your goals and daily habits, and you’ll get tips and reminders to help keep our ocean clean and healthy.

Because, as Jim says, “We can all help solve the trash problem by making less of it.”

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