Cigarette butts cause environmental concern

By Kelly Finlan
October 2, 2003

An empty ashtray sits outside House 7. Inches from its base lay hundreds of carelessly discarded cigarette butts.

Junior Shannon Carroll, an education major, within arm’s length of the ashtray, flicks the inch-long remainder of her cigarette into the grass and goes back inside, just as she has done since she started smoking eight years ago.

“I always flick them,” she said.

On average, Americans smoke about 470 billion cigarettes yearly, according to the Arizona Republic, and less than a third of the filters are disposed of properly.

“Cigarettes are the most littered item in America,” according to, a not-for-profit organization devoted to the promotion of the proper disposal of cigarette waste across America.

A common misconception among smokers is that cigarette butts are biodegradable; given enough time, they will break down. This is not the case. The tobacco and paper left once a cigarette has been smoked will, in fact, break down, but the filter is made of acetate fibers, a type of plastic. This plastic, according to, can take more then 100 years to decompose. The website went on to say that cigarette filters have been found in the stomachs of wild animals, marine life and small children.

Cities all over the world are taking measures to prevent the out of control stream of cigarette waste.

“It looks as disgusting on the ground as it does when I’m smoking,” Carroll said. “I wish I could quit.”

Posted to the web by Ryan Norris

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Kelly Finlan

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