Cigarette butts are the world’s most discarded waste, amounting to around 766.6 million kilograms of toxic waste annually. The harmful chemicals in microplastics cause long-term mortality of marine life, including birds, fish, mammals, plants and reptiles.
The United Nations Environment Programme and the Secretariat of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control will soon launch a social media campaign to raise awareness of the environmental and health impacts of microplastics in cigarette butts, the world’s most discarded waste.
The partnership takes place through the Clean Seas campaign, a global coalition of 63 countries dedicated to ending marine plastic pollution.
This new alliance brings together the two agencies’ expertise in health and public policy on tobacco products with UNEP’s research and advocacy on plastic pollution.
Cigarette butts, the most litter-producing product
Annual global cigarette production exceeds six trillion cigarettes. In each cigarette are filters composed mainly of microplastics known as cellulose acetate fibres
When improperly disposed of, cigarette butts decompose under the action of sunlight and moisture, helping to release these microplastics, heavy metals and many other chemicals, impacting the quality of ecosystems.
Cigarette butts are the most discarded waste in the world, amounting to around 766.6 million kilograms of toxic waste annually. They are also the most common litter on beaches, increasing the susceptibility of marine ecosystems to micro-plastic discharges.
When ingested, the harmful chemicals in microplastics cause long-term mortality of marine life such as birds, fish, mammals, plants and reptiles.
These toxic substances then enter the food chain and have serious impacts on people’s health, such as genetic changes, brain damage and impaired breathing speed, among others.
The social media campaign will engage influencers and involve UNEP Goodwill Ambassadors and Young Champions of the Earth.
“The Secretariat of the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control has the technical expertise to understand not only the impact of tobacco-related products on human health but also on the environment,” said Atif Butt, the Programme’s Public Advocacy Officer.