Our cigarette butts

After my first contact with The Save Koh Tao community in 2008 I have become a lot more aware about what negative impact  the litter we leave behind, throw in the nature and in the sea, have on our planet. After a lot of time spent in Malaga in Spain I have become very angry and frustrated as I find the beaches there extremely dirty. Malagueñen people throw their trash everywhere and they don’t care about the consequences.

Spanish people smoke a lot so you can imagine how many cigarette butts they leave behind and during summer when especially the main beach in Malaga is full of people, mostly locals, there are thousands and thousands of cigarette butts left behind that will be dragged into the sea with the tide. That together with the other rubbish they leave behind is very sad to see. On the rear part of the beach there are many big garbage bins but many people just seem to ignore them. This summer they have tried another way to make people collect their litter. Everyday they put up temporary garbage bags along the shore, every 15 meters. I have found the beach a little bit cleaner but you still see many people sunbathing right next to them, leaving their garbage in the sand or in the water. And nobody ever thinks about throwing their cigarette butts in a bin. The fact is that many people in Malaga look at me strangely when I start collecting my cigarette butts.

All the litter left behind on beaches or thrown into the sea have a very negative impact on the marine environment. Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals and millions of sea birds die each year from ocean pollution and ingestion or from man made waste that is directly or indirectly disposed of in oceans and rivers. It is said that most trash reaches the seas via rivers. The fish will consume this waste and it will also damage the coral reefs, among other things. If for example the coral reefs die the fish will also disappear as they are feeding from the reefs. There are so many reasons why not to leave you garbage and cigarette buts behind.

Some facts:

  • Plastic bags are not petroleum-based and do not bio-degrade
  • Sea turtles and other marine creatures mistake plastics and other garbage for food. A plastic bag might look like a jellyfish. The sea turtles body eventually decompose but the plastic bag will not. It will continue its journey in the sea and kill many more animals.
  • It takes between 10 to 15 years for a cigarette filter to decompose and I have even heard numbers around 100 years depending in which environment they are left.
  • A lot of the litter and man waste found in the seas are thrown on land and carried by wind or rain into the water.

Being a smoker on and off through out the years I am not without guilt, even though I try especially when I am in the nature and at the beach, not to leave my cigarette butts behind. At the beach I normally collect my butts in some kind of container and then I throw them in the bin. Being a smoker you become quite ignorant and selfish and you seem to be in denial about the damage it has on you but also on the environment.  Best thing is of course to not smoke at all so that is my next mission, a mission I succeeded before, for years.

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2 Responses to Our cigarette butts

  1. I never did get why people do that. On a smaller scale its the same in movie theaters. People just walk out and leave their trash at their seats. Yeah, the employees will come through and clean it up, but there is trash cans outside each theater for a reason. It just seems to be this accepted lazy mentality that a lot of people have adopted. No idea why. I’ve been a smoker as well on and off, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve dropped a butt on the ground. I will carry it around in my pocket until I find a trash can if I have to. Cigarette butts never die. It’s just plain rude to expect people to come up behind you and clean up your trash without second thought in my opinion.

    • For me it is the other way around. I cannot count on my fingers how many times I dropped a butt on the ground. As a teenager all the time and I have to admit up till now in cities, even though I try to avoid it. I do feel bad every time. But in pure nature and on beaches I would never and I am going to stop doing it period.

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