Driving to my house today I noticed the people in the car ahead of me toss a couple of cigarette butts out onto the pavement. At first I was a bit indignant at these pigs for littering. But as I thought about it more, I noticed that the streets do not look like giant ashtrays, filled to the curbs with old, spent cigarettes.

So, was my indignation misplaced? What happens to the butts that are tossed out windows? It’s fairly commonplace and I don’t think that we have much street sweeping here, although I could be mistaken on that count. Do they just wash down the gutters and dissolve at the first rain? Do they decompose swiftly and without effect on the environment? Or is it something more insidious than that?

Take a look at the ground the next time you’re at an intersection, especially the off ramp of an expressway or interstate. These medians and roadsides frequently are just covered with cigarette butts!

You might have street-sweepers and don’t know it. Sometimes they come in the early-early morning, whilst you sleep. Or they could come when you’re away from home during the day. My money’s on street-sweepers, which can actually sweep up objects as large as bricks.

Just an anecdote.

When I lived in Florida, I commuted from Miami to West Palm Beach every work day for a few years. Without fail, whenever traffic on I-95 slowed, I would have absolutely no problem spotting at least a dozen cigarette butts. This was an eighty-something mile trip, one way. After a rain, they would bunch up, looking like a small snow drifts. The police there even tossed them out the window. Here in Dallas, I see someone toss one out daily. I have dug up cigarette butts in my yard that have to have been there thirty years. For reasons I cannot comprehend, some smokers go out of their way to litter, flicking them into cages and enclosures at the zoo, tossing them in fountains, shit like that. The anology that works best for me is that smokers are like rats, they have to leave pellets of filth whever they go. The only difference is that rat shit readily decomposes.

Here’s a link or three about the non-bio-degradeability of butts




They say decades to decompose due to the type of acetate used in the filters