Melbourne City Council butts in to recycle cigarette waste

A City of Melbourne initiative is putting cigarette butts in the CBD to good use, recycling them into industrial products like shipping pallets and park benches.

More than 10,000 cigarette butts are littered in the CBD daily. As well as being unsightly, these butts can be harmful to marine life if they end up in waterways.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle says the recycling initiative is already reducing litter around the city.

“We collect more than 200,000 cigarette butts each week from 367 cigarette butt bins across the city: litter that may otherwise end up being washed down drains and into the Yarra River,” he said.

“Cigarette butts are not biodegradable and break down slowly. As part of this project, we will recycle binned cigarette butts into practical items such as shipping pallets and plastic furniture.”

The cigarette butts are being recycled by TerraCycle, a company which works with hard-to-recycle materials like coffee capsules, toothpaste tubes and cosmetic products.

After the cigarette butts are collected, from the numerous smart bins throughout the CBD, TerraCycle converts them into a range of useful products.

“A cigarette is largely organic material, with the tobacco itself and the paper that sits around it, but the filter is where you can actually get plastics out of it,” said TerraCycle spokesperson Gemma Kaczerepa.

“That can be extracted from the organic material and it is then melted down, turned into pellets and those pellets can be used to make items like park benches or bins.”

TerraCycle also runs cigarette butt recycling programs in a number of council areas around Sydney, and Ms Kaczerepa hopes more cities will follow Melbourne’s lead in the future.

“I think there has been a lot more consciousness and understanding of the waste issue that we face in Australia,” she said.

“So hopefully this changes people’s minds and makes them see better ways to manage waste, especially with something like cigarette butts, which many people don’t know can be recycled.”

Earlier this week, the City of Melbourne placed a Perspex box filled with 200,000 cigarette butts in Queensbridge Square along the Yarra River, demonstrating the vast amount of cigarette waste in the CBD.

Ms Kaczerepa said these cigarette butts not only threaten aquatic animals, but also the safety of Melburnians.

“They can end up in the waterways and this can be really damaging to marine life and also the quality of the water. This can consequently come back to harm us, because there are harmful toxins and plastics left in the water.”

(First published on City Journal on July 31, 2017)



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