Carried out over five months by non-profit organization Keep New Zealand Beautiful, with the help of the Department of Conservation, Statistics NZ and the Ministry of Environment, two leading researchers calculated litter content across the country. To their shock, they found that cigarette butts make up almost 80 per cent of all litter in New Zealand.
“The research estimates 10 billion cigarettes are littered across the country. That equates to 2142 cigarette butts per New Zealander.”
Keep New Zealand Beautiful’s chief executive, Heather Saunderson, added further details which she said are “frustrating”. “The research estimates 10 billion cigarettes are littered across the country. That equates to 2142 cigarette butts per New Zealander,” adding that the worst part is that half of all littering happens within five metres of a bin.
“I think most people view New Zealand as clean and green, and for the most part it is. But if you go to your local park, or car park, or retail centre you’ll see litter there behind the bushes. It moves with the wind.”
The Environmental Impact of Cigarette Butts
Meanwhile, a study published last month in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety indicted how these seemingly insignificant little butts can disrupt an ecosystem. Titled, “Cigarette butts have adverse effects on initial growth of perennial ryegrass (gramineae: Lolium perenne L.) and white clover (leguminosae: Trifolium repens L.)” this research found that the presence of cigarette butts in soil harms certain plants.
“Despite being a common sight littering streets and parks worldwide, our study is the first to show the impact of cigarette butts on plants,” said lead author Dannielle Green, Ph.D. “Many smokers think cigarette butts quickly biodegrade and therefore don’t really consider them as a litter. In reality, the filter is made out of a type of bioplastic that can take years, if not decades to break down.”
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