Part 1: By the Numbers
1. Weight of Waste
Every year over 176 Million pounds worth of cigarette butts are littered on the ground in the United States. There has even been a study done that suggests that almost 30% of those butts that are thrown on the ground are done within a fifteen foot radius of a trash receptacle or ash tray. (That includes your car.) Cigarette butts are the most collected form of litter every year. Cigarettes are non-bio degradable.
2. Tax Revenue
Okay, in 2008 the United States (this includes all 50 states) brought in over $16 Billion in tax revenue off of tobacco users. That nice little chunk gets filtered out to various programs such as education, road construction, you know, useful stuff. The argument can be made that the country needs smokers based off of that brilliant $16 Billion. However, states also find themselves dealing with my first topic: litter. And cleaning up the litter costs money too. To find out what your state cigarette tax is visit this link.
3. Smoking Is Big Money
There are an estimated 46 million smokers in the United States. Big number. The average cost of a pack of cigarettes in the US is between $4.50-$5 per pack.
Lets do some math. If the average smoker smokes only a half of a pack per day then we are looking at almost $40 Billion in cigarette sales alone in the United States every year. No need to factor in cigars and smokeless tobacco. It is a huge industry, dominated by the ever popular Phillip Morris USA.
4. Quitters Could Become Millionaires
Take that figure of $4.50 per pack into consideration. If a thirty year old smoker smokes a pack a day that is 365 packs per year. Multiply that by the said amount per pack and you get $1,642.50 per year in savings or $136 per month. Now pretend that thirty year old puts that monthly amount in a mutual fund or some sort of investment that is similar in earning a strong percentage. Let’s say that investment earns 7% annually on average. At age 65 that thirty year old smoker would have:
$247,948.32 and from that $190,462.92 would have been interest earned. All that money is beside the fact of Roth IRA contributions they might incur, 401K, lower health costs savings and other investments or equities built or accumulated during that time.
Part 2: Going Green
5. Recycling Cigarette Butts Into… Clothes
This is what Chilean fashion designer Alexandra Guerrero does with cigarette butts; she makes clothes out of them. Kind of an extreme abnormal take on the whole “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” bit our fathers and grandfathers tell us. Nonetheless, Guerrero does in fact make clothes out of recycled cigarette butts. Using a method that strips the chemicals from the filter she weaves the fibers of the filter with sheep’s wool. About 90% of the fabric is wool, ten percent a Marlboro. (Or Winston, Kool, Newport, yada yada.)
6. New York Law Maker Charging a Butt Return Fee?
First reported by the New York Times, a law maker in New York City is proposing a bill that would charge smokers a $0.01 fee per cigarette to return the butts toward recycling.
This is a great idea except for the whole charging the return fee stuff. I mean, in New York City you are lucky to find a pack for under $10 and now you expect smokers to pay even more while going through the trouble of keeping stinky butts on hand? Great idea but might need a little fine tuning.
The really good news is that law makers are starting to look at potential solutions regarding the recycling of cigarette butts.
7. From Cig Butts to Solvent
In China, scientists have found a way to dissolve the material of cigarette butts into a solvent that protects metal pipes used by the oil industry. In the US there are similar patent submissions that talk about using a process that would potentially do the same thing.
ScienceDaily.com reported that studies have proved this theory correct. Apparently scientists were able to name nine chemicals in the extracts, one of them being nicotine, that worked as protectors against rust on steel pipes. And it works great. They say that the solvent created from the recycled cigarette butts protected the metal against even the harshest of conditions.
8. San Diego Man Buys Cigarette Butts
For three bucks a pound, this San Diego surfer is buying up cigarette butts with future hopes of turning them into clothes or gymnastics mats. Whatever he decides, good luck to him. In the mean time, you may want to contribute by donating or making a little extra cash.
There are several activists on the internet currently requesting support and pursuing environmental grants to start up non-profit organizations that clean up cigarette butts. There goal is to be able to afford the gas, time and energy it would take to walk along beaches, roads and fields.
10. A Company In South Africa Sets The Example
South African company Ash N Ad has been seeking several solutions for the cigarette litter problem. Their solutions range from getting containers out there to collect them to recycling the butts. Check out their videos on youtube.