As the European Union moves closer towards banning single-use plastics, it has announced new rules to clamp down on the littering of cigarette ends.
The filters in cigarettes are the most littered item in the world. And, being made of cellulose acetate, a type of plastic that can take up to ten years to decompose, environmental groups have urged for the issue to be addressed as soon as possible.
Because of new smoking regulations, which have been introduced across Europe in the last decade, it’s hoped that the health risks associated with smoking will decline in the coming years. However, there are still six trillion cigarettes manufactured every year globally.
It’s estimated that 90% of these cigarettes have filters, which equates to over a million tonnes of plastic. Often, cigarette butts end up being washed into gutters, eventually ending up in the sea.
Cigarette butts in our seas and oceans could also be putting marine wildlife at risk. In a recent study, it was shown that cigarette butts can be toxic to fish as the chemicals soak into the water.
In light of this, the EU’s rules could force the tobacco industry to fund the cleaning up of cigarette ends in Europe. Other initiatives have been launched in cities around the world, including additional taxes on cigarettes for cleaning and fines.
Last year, the European Parliament approved proposals which would mean member states removing 50% of the plastic from cigarette filters by 2025. By 2030, they would be required to remove 80%.
However, these were rejected by representatives and instead, it was ruled that the tobacco industry would be responsible for reducing littering. This will be implemented through campaigns, public ashtrays, and labels on cigarette packets detailing the environmental impact of the plastic in filters.
In the future, it’s also hoped that biodegradable filters could be introduced as a long-term solution to the problem. Although, experts are still divided on whether this solution would be effective.
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