This summer I learned:
- That cigarette butts litter my lovely beach (and every public space I walk through).
- That the big "Tobacco-Free Area" sign on the lifeguard station did nothing to slow the weekly deluge.
- That a small, quiet beach in southern Maine can collect almost 2,000 filters in the course of the summer.
- And that filters really do wash up onto the beach from the ocean. I've seen it.
Think I'm wrong, and that they break down? Let's try a little experiment. Let's fill a 5-gallon bucket with water (fresh water, representing your local storm drain/river). Let's put some sand, wood, and a rock in it to simulate nature. Then let's drop a freshly-found cigarette butt into it. Every day or so let's swirl the cigarette around 25 times to simulate the churning it goes through in the "wild."
|Day 1 - August 28, 2010|
|Day 35... and counting|
Here's another fun one. What happens if you subject a cigarette butt to a washing machine on normal cycle and then a dryer for an hour on medium heat? Not much.
|Looks like.... a cigarette butt|
The tobacco industry is in no hurry to tell consumers that filters are plastic. Why? They found that smokers tend to ritualize the act of stubbing out a butt at the end of their cigarette (see p. 6 of the PDF file in the link). Most smokers simply don't think their actions are so far-reaching. What would it do to the industry's bottom line if smokers knew that most or all of the butts they've ever discarded onto the ground still exist?