Your damn cigarette butt on the ground

Your damned cigarette-end on the ground

“Hey! The planet is not a trash can!” This is what was written on the sign of my nephew who was going to demonstrate in the streets. I admit I wanted to clap his hand, I was so proud of him! But in reality, I played the adult and I took the time to explain to him that the majority of people who throw their waste on the ground (butts or not) had simply not been sensitized, or downright educated. , to the impact of their actions on the environment.  

I was inspired by the “I quit, I win” challenge, which started on February 6 and which will end on March 19, to tell you about the impact of cigarette butts on nature…  

Be careful, this is a sensitive subject! To all smokers who read this text, the objective is to teach you a little more about the impact of cigarette butts thrown in nature, and not to judge you. Whether you smoke or not is none of my business! 

First, let's start with stats- shocks:

  • Did you know that on average 4 out of 10 cigarette filters are found in nature? Every year, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are thrown into nature.
  • In short, studies estimate that approximately 137,000 smokers throw their cigarette butts in the streets, oceans or in nature every SECOND!
  • A cigarette butt takes approximately 12 years to decompose. To give you an idea, a cigarette filter thrown on the ground the second a child is born will not completely disappear until they finish primary school…
  • A cigarette butt pollutes up to500 liters of water.
  • It takes one tree to produce 300 cigarettes. On average, a regular smoker smokes about ten a day. A smoker would therefore burn one tree per month

(See sources at the bottom of this text)

Despite all these statistics, know that 'there is hope! Because the cigarette butt has excellent potential for a second life! .jpg” alt=”Your cursed cigarette butt on the ground” />

Photo: iStock

There are several companies that recycle cigarette butts. One of the biggest players in the world is Terracycle. The company offers programs for individuals, establishments and businesses.

In Quebec, there is Mégot Zéro, which also provides recovery. Moreover, collections and travel are done either by bicycle or with electric vehicles, in order to minimize their carbon emissions. 

How does it work?  

  1. Awareness: recycling companies place ashtrays everywhere in cities or in certain workplaces to facilitate and raise awareness among workers who smoke. Smokers are also invited to keep cigarette butts at home and then send them to waste collectors who will process them.  
  1. Collection: recycling companies will collect cigarette butts from ashtrays. 
  1. Depollution: the filters are depolluted and crushed to remove the leaves, ashes and tobacco which will be composted. It is therefore possible to recover only the fiber, made of plastic.  
  1. Processing: plastic fiber is processed and then used in all sorts of ways. Some use it in the preparation of cement, replacing fossil fuels, others to make street furniture. There are even companies that make insulating fibers to line winter coats or insulate buildings. 

Circular economy projects based on cigarette butts are more established in Europe , but some startupsare beginning to take a more serious interest here too.  

Like what, the smallest waste can still be upgraded.


  • Lagain, A France Blue. (May 31, 2019). Number of the day: 10 billion cigarette butts discarded in nature every day.
  • Novethic. (March 11, 2018). A single cigarette butt pollutes up to 500 liters of water. Retrieved from /li>
  • France info. (October 11, 2018). VIDEO. Tobacco: the government launches an anti-cigarette butt campaign.
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