By JACLYN “JACKIE” FRANKS, MPH
HHS Extension Educator, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, Kosciusko County
WARSAW — Individually they are small, but collectively they are deadly. Tobacco waste, including cigarette butts, makes up 38 percent of litter us U.S. roadways, which is equivalent to 1.6 billion pounds of toxic waste worldwide per year. When tobacco waste is not properly disposed of, it affects our ecosystem and many of our wildlife that digest the filters.
Cigarette filters are not biodegradable, meaning the materials never completely breakdown. When these products are littered, they chemicals remaining in the cigarette butt and filter become diluted in water or soil. While the environmental impact of one single cigarette butt is minimal, over 5 trillion cigarettes are consumed worldwide each year, leading to major environmental public health problems. When a cigarette butt is dropped on a sidewalk or from a moving car they eventually make their way into street drains, and thus into rivers, streams, and oceans. And not only is this unsightly, but also toxic. A 2006 study conducted showed that cigarette butts were found to be toxic to some marine organisms and bacteria, and it is unknown at what concentration these chemicals will be toxic to marine animals such as birds or mammals.
According to Heidi Blake, Coordinator of the Kosciusko County Tobacco Coalition, a recent clean-up of downtown Warsaw resulted in the pick-up of 2,530 cigarette butts. “Gathering the community to clean up the cigarette butts prevents them from getting into our rivers and streams” said Blake, “it makes our community a healthier place to live”.
In order to further combat the problem of toxic waste in our community, Purdue Extension will join forces with the Kosciusko County Tobacco Free Coalition, Junior Leaders, and youth from Kosciusko Cares to host a cigarette butt cleanup at the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds on Saturday, May 21. Please join us in preventing this toxic waste from getting into our waterways, and make Kosciusko County a healthier and cleaner place to live. Volunteers should meet at the Shrine Building at the Fairgrounds at 10 a.m. and all materials for the waste pickup will be provided.
For more information on the environmental impacts of tobacco, please visit Voice Indiana or this article from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health or contact Jackie Franks at [email protected] or (574) 372-2340.