Mahón (EFE).- On the island of Menorca, with almost 100,000 inhabitants, 118 million cigarette butts were discarded last year, representing almost 38 tons of waste, according to a study by the organizations Rezero and Per la Mar Viva, which highlights the serious problem for the environment of this waste.
The study, which has had the support of the Consell de Menorca, determines that 70% of cigarette butts are thrown to the ground and end up in urban and natural environments, generating significant environmental and visual impacts.
In the samplings carried out, it has been detected that the beaches are one of the environments with a greater presence of cigarette butts, something especially worrying given the negative effect they have on marine ecosystems.
In this sense, the authors of the study point out that the filters for tobacco butts are made of cellulose acetate, a non-biodegradable plastic that ends up decomposing into microplastic particles that contaminate ecosystems, especially aquatic ones.
In addition, they contain toxic components for the environment and the health of living beings, such as nicotine, tar, ammonium, pyridine and lead.
Public measures against cigarette butts
For all these reasons, Carlos Salord, president of Per la Mar Viva, highlights the importance of carrying out studies to find out the reality of this problem and alert the administrations to take action.
Roser Badia, coordinator of Rezero in the Balearic Islands, denounces the general ignorance of the public about the negative impact of cigarette butts on the environment.
“Despite having a 100% plastic composition, butts are not perceived as waste by the smoking population and their abandonment in the environment is socially more accepted than other waste,” he says.
In the case of Menorca, the contract for cleaning the island’s beaches amounts to 900,000 euros per year and, taking into account that cigarette butts account for 65% of the waste on the beaches, the authors of the study calculate that the cost of their collection means up to 585,000 euros per year.
For this reason, they argue that the persistence of cigarette butts in urban and natural environments makes it necessary to implement new preventive measures, such as limiting smoking on beaches.
Smoke-free beaches program
They also recall that currently in Menorca there are only five sandy beaches attached to the “Smoke-free Beaches” program, out of a total of 136 beaches, many of them virgin, so there is great potential to improve the protection of marine ecosystems.
Finally, they suggest that tobacco-producing companies should bear the cost of waste management to ease the burden on municipalities.
“We hope that the royal decree on the management of tobacco waste, currently in the phase of approval after the period of allegations, incorporates these measures,” concludes Badia.