Smokers, night club owners, human resource managers and litter fighters, here is some great news: You can recycle cigarette ashes and waste products! No more wondering why you should collect all those cigarette butts when they will only go to trash anyway. No more cringing because the only alternative is to put all that garbage in the bin. No more scattering the ashes around your flowers and hoping the chemicals from your cigarettes will not damage them.
More than one business now makes it quick and easy to mail in your cigarette ashes and waste. A few companies will come straight to your door and collect it for you (if you live in their community). Smoking may not be the greenest habit in the world, but it just got a little bit more eco-friendly thanks to great programs like the ones described below.
Why should you recycle cigarette ashes and waste?
Cigarette waste is a huge problem in cities across the world. While most people would think twice before throwing a plastic bottle or a fast food bag on the ground, many smokers see no harm in depositing their cigarette butts on the ground. After all, they are small and everyone else does it.
But there are a lot of cigarette butts out there – around 4.5 trillion, according to the Houston Chronicle
. Four and a half trillion of anything can quickly add up to a huge problem.
In addition, cigarette filters are made with a plastic material called cellulose acetate, which does not biodegrade. That means that over time, cigarette litter can build up and become very unsightly. According to Keep America Beautiful
, cigarette butts account for about one-third of the litter that appears on our streets and sidewalks. They are also the most common item thrown away as litter.
Cigarette waste is damaging to the environment in multiple ways. Keep America Beautiful points out that most cigarette butts end up being washed into storm drains, which means they eventually end up in lakes, rivers and the ocean. Fish and other animals may mistake them for food and eat them, which can hurt or even kill them. The nicotine, formaldehyde, arsenic, ammonia and other chemicals in cigarette can also harm wildlife.
Of course, all these problems could be solved by putting your cigarette ashes and waste into the trash. But if the byproducts of your cigarette can be turned into useful products, why let them sit in a landfill?
How to recycle cigarette ashes and waste
Your best option for recycling cigarette ashes and waste is a company called TerraCycle
, which specializes in difficult-to-recycle waste. For several years now, it has operated a program to recycle cigarette butts, ashes and other waste products.
To participate in TerraCycle’s Cigarette Waste Brigade
, you first have to sign up for the program on its website. Save your cigarette waste in your regular ash tray or other receptacle. Over time (and once your cigarettes are fully extinguished), you can transfer that waste to a plastic bag or other container described on its website. Once you have collected a large quantity, place the bag in a box, print a shipping label from TerraCycle’s website and send your old cigarette ashes and waste away.
TerraCycle takes your trash and turns it into pallets and other useful products. It also composts any leftover tobacco that arrives in packages.
TerraCycle’s website explicitly states that it can accept cigarette butts, ashes, filters, rolling papers, packages of loose tobacco, the plastic that goes around your cigarette pack and the foil found within the pack. The only thing TerraCycle does not take is cigarette packages and cartons. However, these are made of paper and can likely be recycled through your curbside recycling program along with old cereal boxes
, newspapers and junk mail.
There are several smaller programs to recycle cigarette ashes and waste. InnovaGreen Systems
accepts cigarette filters and butts through the mail. It transforms that waste into cool cigarette butt and ash containers. Cigarette Butt Services’ Waste to Watts program sends cigarette leftovers to a waste-to-energy plant, where they are burned to create electricity.
Because cigarette waste is not biodegradable, it is not a good idea to put cigarette butts in your compost pile. Ashes can have an adverse affect on compost, especially in large quantities, and should not be added either.
We were not able to find any information on recycling cigar ashes and waste, but it stands to reason that some of these programs would accept cigars as well. If you enjoy smoking cigars and would like to keep your waste out of your trash, check with these programs to see if they can accept your leftovers.
Cigarette recycling program inspires city-wide collection efforts
Now that a solution for recycling cigarette ashes and waste exists, companies and whole cities have embarked on campaigns to make their streets cigarette waste-free. Vancouver (BC) launched the first city-wide cigarette ash and waste recycling program
by installing 110 recycling bins around the city in 2013. A group is trying to launch a similar effort in Nashville. Keep Pinellas Beautiful, which serves the St. Petersburg (FL) area, coordinates a cigarette butt recycling program.
TerraCycle and the other companies described in this article make it easy to set up a cigarette ash and waste recycling program at work or even in your entire town. Get more details about that on their website as well. Hopefully, it will inspire you to find ways to keep your town or workplace cleaner and safer.