Culture 3 min read

Cigarette Butts Affect Plant Growth Says New Study

Image Caption: Pixabay

Image Caption: Pixabay

Cigarette butts are one of the worst polluters floating on the oceans. Aside from damaging the habitats and poisoning the fishes, they cost millions of tax dollars to clean up.

But, the damage also extends to the terrestrial habitat as well. A new study suggests that cigarette butts are causing damage to our plants.

In the 1950s, the tobacco industry created cigarette filters as a “healthier” alternative to unfiltered cigarettes. It was supposed to block out the toxins that could lead to lung cancer.

It turned out to be a big con.

Not only is the “filtered cigarettes are healthier” claim untrue, but the filters are made of tiny plastics that take decades to decompose. But that isn’t the worse part.

According to the researchers at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU),  aside from poisoning the marine life, cigarette butts also reduce plant growth significantly.

In a statement, lead author of the paper and senior lecturer in Biology at ARU, Dannielle Green, Ph.D., said:

“Despite being common sight littering streets and parks worldwide, our study is the first to show the impact of cigarette butts on plants. We found they had a detrimental effect on the germination success and shoot length of both grass and clover, and reduced the root weight of clover by over half.”

How is this possible?

How Cigarette Butts Are Poisoning Our Planet

The ARU researchers estimated that about 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered every year. And these affect vegetation growth in various ways.

For example, it reduces the length of the stem by 28 percent and limits the germination success by 27 percent. Also, it minimizes the root weight by about 57 percent.

Of course, cigarette butts also contain several toxins that could harm the soil. In the end, you’ll get a plant with stunted growth and sparse vegetation at best.

Aside from affecting just plants, cigarette butt pollution also impacts forage crops for livestock, nitrogen fixating plants, and pollinators. In other words, it poses a great danger to the planet as a whole.

So, why is this form of pollution so rampant?

One word: ignorance.

According to the researcher, smokers generally believe that the cigarette butt quickly biodegrades. As such, they don’t consider throwing it anywhere as littering.

The truth is, a cigarette butt is made up of cellulose acetate fiber. And this type of bioplastic takes between years to decades before breaking down.

Saving the Environment From Cigarette Butt Pollution

The researchers recommend raising awareness. This could involve educating the public on the dangers of that comes with not discarding a cigarette butt properly.

Greene noted:

“In some parks, particularly surrounding benches and bins, we found over 100 cigarette butts per square meter. Dropping cigarette butts seems to be a socially acceptable form of littering. We need to raise awareness that the filters do not disappear and instead can cause serious damage to the environment.”

The researchers published their findings in the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety.

Read More: Crowded Cities Wants to use Crows to Murder Cigarette Littering

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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