A social change that needs to come about is the cutback on the amount of littering that people do. The number one thing that people need to work on is reducing the amount of cigarette butts that are littered in the world. This is not just a problem in the United States, but a worldwide issue that people need to become aware of right away. As of right now it is the most commonly littered piece of trash (Register 2000).
It is estimated that there is close to about 1.7 billion pounds of cigarette butts being littered each year (“Cigarette Butt Waste”). One of the main reasons for this is that people are not educated about the impact of cigarette butts. Many people think that cigarette butts are actually biodegradable, which is entirely untrue. Also, when surveyed many people reported that they did not consider dropping cigarette butts to be considered littering (“The Problems & Facts”). Even with the amount of smokers going down the littering has not gone down (“Cigarette Butt Waste”).
These butts are very dangerous and toxic to our environment. The filters of cigarette butts are made up of cellulose acetate (Novotny, Lum, Smith, Wang, & Barnes 2009). Even though when one looks at a filter it looks like it would be made out of cotton, but cellulose acetate is actually a kind of plastic that takes a very long time to break down (Register 2000). The sun can break them down, but they will only breakup into small pieces and never fully decompose (Novotny, Lum, Smith, Wang, & Barnes 2009). The filters then end up making their way into the ocean and being digested by marine life. Just one filter when left in a liter of water leaks enough toxic chemicals to kill all the fish living in the water (“Cigarette Butt Waste”). That was just one filter can you imagine what all the filters are doing to our oceans?
Also, they are not only toxic for the environment, but also toxic for people. As many of us know, children love to put anything and everything in their mouths. So, what happens when you or someone you know takes their child to playground that has cigarette butts lying around? Of course one is bound to end up in a child’s mouth. In 1997 in Rhode Island, there were over 146 cases reported to the Department of Health of butts being ingested by children under the age of six causing signs of nicotine toxicity in about a third of them (Novotny, Lum, Smith, Wang, & Barnes 2009). They are enough to cause the children to experience vomiting, nausea, lethargy, gagging, and flushing (“Cigarette Butt Waste”). Even though we do not know how many is needed to be ingested to cause adverse health issues do we really want to find out (Novotny, Lum, Smith, Wang, Barnes 2009).
There are a couple of things that we can do to bring about this social change. For off we need to provide more ash receptacles, which has been shown that every addition of one reduces littering of cigarette butts by nine percent (“The Problem & Facts”). So, by putting up more places for people to dispose of their butts we can start reduces the litter. Also, making beach smoke free is said to reduce the number of butts found on the beach by forty-five percent (“Cigarette Butt Waste”). Lastly, informing the property owners about the impact that any kind of litter can have on their property values should push them to want to keep their communities clean (“Cigarette Butt Waste”). It is said that any presence of litter can reduce the property value for an around by a little over seven percent (“The Problems & Facts”). Just doing these three things we should see a difference in the amount of buts being littered.
Everyone talks about wanting a clean and healthy environment for their families, but they do not even realize that they might be taking away from it. Littering is a huge problem throughout the world. If we could get people to just start picking up their cigarette butts we could see a real improvement. Nobody realizes the impact of smoking has on people once the cigarette is smoke. Not only does it hurt people around the smoker when they are smoke, but it also hurts the environment once it flicked out of the car, onto the grass, or anywhere else that is not a trashcan. So, please if you know people who carelessly flick their cigarette butts wherever tell them the impact that they are causing for the rest of us.
Cigarette Butt Waste. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2016, from http://no-smoke.org/learnmore.php?id=731
Novotny, T. E., Lum, K., Smith, E., Wang, V., & Barnes, R. (2009). Cigarettes Butts and the Case for an Environmental Policy on Hazardous Cigarette Waste. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 6(5), 1691-1705. doi:10.3390/ijerph6051691
Register, K. M. (2000, August). Cigarette Butts as Litter—Toxic as Well as Ugly. Retrieved November 27, 2016, from http://www.longwood.edu/cleanva/ciglitterarticle.htm
The Problem & Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2016, from https://www.kab.org/cigarette-litter-prevention/problem-and-facts