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Cigarette litter represents over 20 percent of the litter collected in many community cleanup initiatives and is an environmental problem for any community.
The cigarette filter is cellulose acetate, a man-made fiber spun to look like cotton thread. These fibers break down very slowly, sometimes taking years.
Cellulose acetate may degrade in time, but it is not biodegradable. One research report states that 18 percent of all litter dropped to the ground is washed into streams, rivers, lakes and the ocean by stormwater runoff. Cigarette butts are little and lightweight —they are easily carried with this runoff into our waterways. As the wind and rain carry it along, it catches in flower gardens, grass and open spaces. That’s when children, our pets, and wildlife find it.
The fibers in a cigarette filter and the remaining tobacco contain several residual alkaloids, including nicotine, posing a health problem for wildlife when ingested. Did you know that birds may use it for nesting and even think it's food?
The McLure-Barriere fire wiped out the town of Louis Creek, north of Kamloops. It destroyed 67 homes and caused damages estimated at more than $8.2 million. A volunteer fire fighter’s carelessly discarded cigarette sparked that blaze, which now covers over 19,000 hectares and is 50 per cent contained.
Forest fires devastate B.C. communities