A far bigger problem than plastic straw pollution, according to NBC News, is cigarette butts. They reported that it is the number one human-caused contaminant in the world’s oceans, and it has managed to avoid regulation so far.
The main issue is cigarette filters which Thomas Novotny, professor of public health at San Diego State University, told NBC News had “no health benefit”. He said it “seems like a no-brainer to me that we can’t continue to allow this”.
According to Professor Novotny, “the vast majority of the 5.6 trillion cigarettes manufactured worldwide each year come with filters made of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that can take a decade or more to decompose.
“As many as two-thirds of those filters are dumped irresponsibly each year,” said Novotny, who founded the Cigarette Butt Pollution Project. He hopes to change attitudes towards cigarette filters through his campaign.
Since 1986, cigarette butts have been the most collected item on ocean beaches, with about 60 million found in 32 years.
No health benefit
Filters were invented in the mid-1900s to alleviate health concerns from cigarettes, but have now become a major problem.
A 2011 study by Professor Novotny found that getting smokers to stop flicking the ends of their cigarettes was difficult, with anti-litter campaigns and permanent ashtrays being unsuccessful.
What is being done about this problem?
Steps have been taken around the world to tackle the problem. In the US, attempts have been made to pass legislation to ban filters or to increase cigarette pack prices to cover clean-up funds.
A theme park in France has trained crows to pick up litter and cigarette butts, to teach us that “nature can teach us to take care of the environment”.