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How to Recycle Cigarette Butt Litter

written by: BackToRoots•edited by: BStone•updated: 7/20/2010

Cigarette butt litter is not only unsightly, but it introduces toxins into the water and soil. Recycling cigarette butts is a great way to turn these polluting chemicals into something useful — pesticide for the garden!

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    Cigarette Butts or Filters and Littering

    Cigarette Butt 

    Cigarette butt litter on public beaches, sidewalks, and parks is disgusting, but its everywhere. From smokers tossing used filters on the ground to a lack of disposal bins in public areas, the refuse of cigarette smoking can be found everywhere, especially in cities.

    This littering problem is an environmental issue. Cigarette filters are designed to capture smoke particles; this tar accumulates in the filters. The litter often ends up in waterways via storm drains. Chemicals absorbed in filters then leech into fresh water systems killing organisms and polluting the environment. Waste that ends up in the soil leeches chemicals into it the ground. Wouldn't it be great if recycling cigarette butts was possible? It is!

    Cigarette filters are mainly made out of cellulose, a natural fiber. They are processed into cellulose acetate, which is a synthetic plastic. This material will decompose, depending on the size of your compost pile it can take from 5 months to 3 years to break down. Why would you chuck cigarette butts into your compost pile? Won't the chemicals in cigarette butt litter destroy all the bacteria needed to break down the organic matter?

    With a few simple steps you are able to harness these chemicals and transform them into a pesticide for your garden. Then you can compost the "clean" filters. Even if you choose to dispose of them, you are disposing of a much less toxic product.

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    What You Will Need

    The first step is to collect used cigarette butts, keep them in a lidded jar or somewhere sealed, as these tend to smell quite strongly.

    • 80 used cigarette filters
    • Water, 1 liter
    • 1/8 of a bar of non-scented soap
    • 50 ml of alcohol
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    How To Make the Pesticide

    1. Put the filters in a pot or a container that can be heated
    2. Add the alcohol, try to soak all the filters with the alcohol
    3. Add the water
    4. Cover and allow to soak for 6 six hours

      WARNING: From this step onwards this process tends to emit a terrible tar-like smell. Make sure you have enough ventilation with open windows or a kitchen fan.

    5. Add the soap, finely chopped or grated
    6. Bring the mix to a boil
    7. Once its boiling bring the heat to a minimum and allow to simmer for half an hour
    8. Allow to cool
    9. Filter the liquid from the solids (paper and filters)

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    Applying the Product

    Spray Bottle Spray infected plants until all parts of the plant are drenched in this product. Do not wet the soil as it can kill microorganisms and earthworms.

    Do not apply more than once a week, and once the pests disappear discontinue its use.

    Do not apply to:

    • Vegetables that are to be consumed in the near future
    • Leaf vegetables (lettuce, spinach, etc)
    • Plants in bloom (this product will ruin the flowers)
    • Fruit trees that are in bloom (product will spoil the flowers, and fruiting will be sacrificed)
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    Additional Notes and Warnings

    Once ready this product does not keep well. Do not store for more than a week, two in the colder months. Store in a place away from the sun. Recycled cigarette pesticide stains, so use old clothing and gloves when applying. As with other pesticides, keep it away from children and pets, and always wash your hands after every application. The remaining filters after the chemicals are extracted can be composted.

    While it may seem impossible to turn something like cigarette butt litter into a useful product, it is possible and even practical. Recycling cigarette butts makes sense.

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    Image Credits

    Cigarette Butt - http://blogs.chron.com/sciguy/archives/2010/05/post_152.html

    Spray Bottle - http://www.scottishcat.com/images/spray_bottle.jpg