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Don't Toss Your Butt!

By Kaeley Sterkel

Every month during our beach cleanups we take inventory of what was found ranging from all sizes. It is important to make sure you are taking everything with you after visiting the beaches and even more important to pick up trash that is not yours. Even if ten people did that in one day they would be saving hundreds of pieces of trash that could have a harmful impact on the ocean and the organisms that live in it as well as around it. Small efforts turn into big solutions!

One of the top items that is found on a daily basis on the beach is cigarette butts. Because they are made from microplastics, it can affect even the tiniest phytoplankton to the oldest blue whale. There is no limit as to what microplastic, especially a toxic one, can affect. Microplastics pollute of food, water, and air. What is even worse is that the tobacco companies know how harmful they are even before it is used and discarded.

The tobacco industry has been around for many decades and in that time has only produced an unhealthy lifestyle for humans and for the earth. The industry is the top plastic polluter that contributes to climate change and deforestation. Even though the microplastics in the product are harmful what makes them a killer is the toxic chemicals that make them hard to dispose of safely and toxic waste. All the industry cares about is making money instead of helping communities, there is no responsibility taken so the people have to step up.

But wait, aren’t cigarette butts made of cotton or paper?

NO, cigarette butts are primarily plastic.

Cigarette butts are small and tend to go unnoticed but they are hiding almost everywhere. Contrary to what many believe, cigarette butts are not harmless. They are made of cellulose acetate, a man-made plastic material, and contain hundreds of toxic chemicals. While cigarette filters, or the plastic part of butts, can take up to 10 years to completely degrade, the chemicals they release can remain in the environment for many more years beyond the life of the cigarette butt itself.

These lingering toxins include arsenic (also used in rat poisoning), lead (a poison that can affect the brain development of children) and nicotine. When these toxic plastics are improperly disposed of on the street corner or out the car window, they slowly leach toxins into our natural systems, presenting a serious threat to us and our environment.

There is always hope with any situation like this. As people of the community, we have the

power to say what we don’t like and want to change, working for the ban of cigarette butts would put a halt to the largest producer of toxic waste and microplastic pollution. Just this past February the Ocean Protection Council voted to make California the first state to put together a plan to reduce pollution by attacking plastic-laden cigarette filters. Of course, you are also able to attend beach cleanups to stop the further progression of butts on our beaches for land and water animals to be poisoned.

We are committed to making the beaches cleaner and safer so that the ecosystems can thrive!

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