How to Dispose of Cigarettes (the right way)

Improperly disposed cigarettes, cigarette butts, and other smoking materials have been a nuisance since their existence.

They put homeowners, tenants, and managers at risk since smoking is one of the leading causes of fire fatalities.

Tragically, smoking-related fires claimed the lives of 14 people in 2006 and 9 people in 2007 in Washington alone.

In 2007, fire agencies reported 465 incidents caused by cigarettes resulting in a loss of more than $1.4 million, and this is just the example of one state.

Therefore, disposing of cigarettes in the right manner is not just about caring for the environment but also a safety precaution.

Throwing them in the garbage or recycling them are the best options available.

Disposing Cigarettes and Cigarette Butts Safely

Each year, millions of cigarette butts end up in landfills and dumpsters or get thrown in parks and on shorelines and tracks across the world.

Many environmental advocacy groups are aiming to increase awareness about the environmental impacts of cigarettes.

They are also pushing for the installation of more bins to dispose of butts safely.

Some cities have limitations regarding where people can smoke. Many have also started collecting fees on cigarettes to raise money for clean-up costs.

Unfortunately, butt pollution continues, and it’s our job to lessen its effect.

Here’s how you can dispose of cigarettes and cigarette butts in the right manner:

  • Before you throw a cigarette away, make sure it is completely extinguished. Then, wait till no more smoke comes out before you throw it.
  • Do not mix cigarette ashes with the rest of your trash. Instead, bag them and tightly seal the bag before tossing it into the bin.
  • Never flush cigarettes, butts, or ashes down your sink, toilet, or drain. They can harm the environment and even damage your home’s sewage pipes by clogging them up.

Always remember that cigarette butts belong in the trash and not on the ground.

You should never toss them out in the open, especially if the flames haven’t been extinguished.

Here’s the thing, though. Even if you do end up tossing cigarette butts in the garbage, there’s a good chance they will still end up polluting the environment.

This is because cigarette butts are small, so even if you dispose of them at a landfill, a gust of wind, or an animal, pretty much anything can carry them someplace they are not supposed to be.

If you are extremely vigilant about taking care of the environment, you can buy cigarettes without filters.

This way, if the butt does end up in the environment, at least you won’t be adding plastic waste.

Safety Tips for Disposal of Cigarettes:

  • Use a sturdy ashtray that has a stable and wide base. You can also use a non-combustible can filled with sand to collect ashes.
  • Soak cigarette ashes and butts in water before disposing of them to ensure they are fully extinguished.
  • Never throw burning cigarette butts or ashes directly in a trashcan.
  • Make sure you fully extinguish your cigarettes before disposal.
  • Do not throw lit cigarettes out of moving vehicles or directly on the ground. This can increase the potential for fire and even result in a fine for littering.

Cigarette Handling Tips:

  • Furniture can catch fire fast and burn rapidly. So don’t put ashtrays on your couches and chairs.
  • If people smoke inside your home, check for cigarettes under cushions.
  • Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used (for example, an oxygen cylinder).
  • If you are tired or falling asleep, always put out your cigarette.
  • Never smoke cigarettes in bed.

Recycling Cigarette Butts

When tossed out into the environment, cigarette butts take anywhere between 2.5 to 10 years to break down.

These butts trickle chemicals and heavy metals into the environment and pollute street gutters and waterways. They also harm fish and other wildlife when they end up in the ocean.

Recycling cigarette butts is an important way to clean up after ourselves. It is good for your neighborhood and good for the planet.

Your best option for recycling cigarette waste is to connect with recycling companies that specialize in difficult-to-recycle waste.

To participate in cigarette recycling programs, you need to save your cigarette waste in your regular ashtrays. Then, over time you can transfer that waste to an acceptable plastic bag or any other container.

Once you have collected a large quantity of ashes and butts in a bag, box it and ship it to the recycling company. Make sure that you label the waste appropriately.

Make sure that you check with the recycling company regarding the materials they accept.

Most companies accept cigarette ashes, butts, filters, rolling papers, loose tobacco packs, plastic that goes around your cigarette pack, and the foil found inside the pack.

Many cigarette recycling companies do not take cigarette packets and cartons, so please do not add them to your disposal package.

Most cigarette boxes and packets are made of paper. You can easily recycle them through your curbside recycling program and other paper waste such as newspapers and old cardboard boxes.

The Three-Step Recycling Process

The recycling company will take your cigarette rash and turn it into pallets and other useful products. Some companies also compost leftover tobacco that arrives in packages, so that’s an added plus!

Here’s how the process works:

Step # 1. Collection:

Collect and ship the cigarette butts and ashes to organizations that recycle. They will store all the butts they collect in their local warehouse and prepare them for processing.

Step # 2. Processing:

A cigarette butt has three components: residual tobacco, paper, and a filter.

First, the residual tobacco and paper are separated from the butt and composted.

Next, the filter, which is made of a white synthetic fiber known as cellulose acetate, is vigorously cleaned, melted, and turned into pellets using the extrusion method.

Step # 3. Conversion:

Then, the pellets made of cellulose acetate are combined with other kinds of plastics (such as polypropylene or polyethylene).

Finally, they are used to produce plastic products such as shipping pallets, ashtrays, and plastic boards.

Tips for Successful Recycling

  • Make sure that the butts are completely extinguished before you collect them in the designated container.
  • Store the cigarette waste in a disposable plastic container, a resealable plastic bag, a garbage bag, or a shopping bag.
  • When your package is ready to ship, secure it so the odor and ash do not leak. Take all the time you need to package carefully, so it is easier for the people handling it during transit.
  • Add a shipping label to your package and make sure it is sturdy enough to reach the designated location without getting damaged.

Can I Put Cigarette Waste In My Compost Pile?

No. We do not recommend adding cigarette butts to a compost pile.

Even though many people believe otherwise, cigarette waste is not biodegradable. Hence, it is not a good idea to put your butts and ashes in a compost pile. They are full of toxic, carcinogenic chemicals.

Here are four reasons to avoid composting cigarette waste:

  1. Cigarette filters are composed of synthetic cellulose acetate polymer. This material does not decompose and begins to break down after about ten years.
    Once it comes in contact with water, it releases dangerous chemicals harmful to animals or humans.
  2. You can find more than 1300 different types of chemicals and additives in one cigarette.
    After a few months, the leftover tobacco decomposes but can release harmful chemicals into the compost pile or bin.
  3. Nicotine is a very strong insecticide. If it ends up in your compost pile or bin, it will kill all the essential bacteria for the composting process.
  4. Tobacco also contains the Mosaic virus, a disease that does not kill plants but lowers the quantity and quality of the flowers, fruits, and leaves they produce.
    If you are planning to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, cherries, or squash, do not add cigarette waste to your compost, as these plants are usually the most affected by this virus.

Final Words

The most environmentally friendly way to dispose of cigarette waste (butts, ashes, filters, etc.) is to send them to a recycling facility. Recycling makes use of components of a cigarette to create useful materials.

If you do not have access to a recycling facility, you can dispose of your cigarette waste with the rest of your trash but only after completely extinguishing it. Your waste will then end up in a landfill.

While disposing of in a landfill is not 100% eco-friendly, it is better than tossing cigarette waste out in the environment and putting your own life and the lives of others at risk.

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