Cigarette butts are the most polluted item on the planet. Here’s how you can recycle them.

Every year, billions of cigarette butts end up in the garbage, landfills, or get tossed as litter. Cigarettes are the most polluting item on the planet. They can easily break apart and wash into our ecosystems. What’s more, cigarettes contain harmful chemicals that are toxic to wildlife and pollute natural habitats.

When you toss a cigarette in the bin, it goes straight to landfill where it can take up to 10 years to decompose. 

Thankfully, there is a solution to this problem! Cigarettes can be recycled through TerraCycle Zero Waste Box. Over 10 years ago, TerraCycle became the first company in the world to launch the first city-wide recycling program for cigarette waste, which was successfully launched in partnership with the City of Vancouver. TerraCycle now collects and recycles cigarette butts in cities all around the globe, including launching the  Cigarette Waste Zero Waste Box System in Australia and New Zealand.

Here’s how you can recycle cigarettes through TerraCycle, plus the process behind the program.

How are cigarettes recycled?

Cigarette butts contain a few main components – residual tobacco, paper, and a filter. TerraCycle has worked out how to recycle each of these elements.

  • The residual tobacco and paper are separated out and composted.
  • The filter, which is made of a white synthetic fibre called cellulose acetate, is thoroughly cleaned, melted, and pelletized using a method called extrusion.

What is a Cigarette Waste Zero Waste Box and how does it work?

TerraCycle’s cigarette waste Zero Waste Box provides an easy recycling solution for cigarette waste. When disposing of cigarette butts in a Zero Waste Box make sure you recycle all parts of extinguished cigarettes, filters, cigar stubs, outer plastic packaging, inner foil packaging, rolling paper, and ash. 

For more on how you can approach your business to go green, or to encourage the wider public to recycle, visit our blog here.

What are recycled cigarettes made into?

The cellulose acetate powder is used in the manufacturing of recycled plastic lumber. This lumber can be used to build park benches, picnic tables, fencing, decks, playground equipment and more.

Meanwhile,  there’s some good news on vapes

TerraCycle in New Zealand also partners with Vapo to recycle vapes for free for Kiwis!

So don’t put up with cigarette waste. Solving this problem has a significant impact on the environment.

If you see cigarettes around your local community, remember you can always contact your local council and encourage them to provide public recycling receptacles for cigarette butts.

If you’re looking to recycle cigarettes or want to spread awareness in the community about how to do this, please download a link to our poster, here.

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