We recycle pretty much everything these days. From bottles to bus tickets, clothing to clementine peel, there’s barely anything that can’t be reprocessed and turned into something useful. But what about butts?

No, not your derriere, we’re talking about the ends of so many cigarettes that are scattered across pavements, piled in the bottom of bins and lining gutters across the world. Cigarette butts are still seen as something entirely disposable, useless and unwanted: the dirty leftover than has no applications for reuse. As well as being disgusting, cigarette butts are small, which makes them even less likely to be considered as a valuable resource, but that’s where we’d be wrong. A new scheme aims to recycle cigarette butts into new plastic products, which will dramatically reduce litter and landfill, especially when you take into account that smoking-related rubbish is found at 73% of public sites and makes up 35% of the items of waste that have been dropped.

The brains behind this clever operation is TerraCycle, an international company that makes affordable green products from pre-consumer and post-consumer waste and by reusing other discarded materials. The new initiative will allow smokers to prevent some of the billions of non-biodegradable butts that currently enter rubbish sites. This will be achieved by  the Cigarette Waste Brigade, which allows groups, workplaces, councils and individual adults to collect butts, ash, used and unused filters, rolling paper, inner foil packaging and outer plastic packaging and send them for recycling using free shipping labels. Collected cigarette waste will be turned into plastic delivery pallets, with any remaining tobacco or paper being composted. That’s what we call sustainability!

Schemes like this get more media attention than actual advocacy when they first start up, but it only takes a few people to spread the word before things snowball. If a significant proportion of cigarette butts and other smoking-related materials were collected across the world and repurposed, it would make an incredible difference to everything from landfill levels to carbon emissions. Whether you’re a smoker or never touch the things, find out more about this pioneering recycling scheme by visiting the TerraCycle website and getting involved!

You can also follow TerraCycle on Facebook and Twitter.


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