With close to 4.5 trillion butts polluting the global environment, this form of litter accounts for close to 26,454 tonnes of waste generated annually in Indiane-person-dies-every-six-seconds-due-to-tobacco-use (SHUTTERSTOCK)
With close to 4.5 trillion butts polluting the global environment, this form of litter accounts for close to 26,454 tonnes of waste generated annually in Indiane-person-dies-every-six-seconds-due-to-tobacco-use (SHUTTERSTOCK)

The environmental challenge posed by cigarette butt litter

Falling under the category of post-consumer waste, cigarette litter could easily be categorised as a public nuisance, especially for those that have fewer resources to clean it.
By Kaushik Chandrasekhar and Suneel Pandey
PUBLISHED ON JAN 09, 2021 08:39 PM IST

Cellulose acetate-based cigarette filter is considered the world’s most littered form of plastic. With close to 4.5 trillion butts polluting the global environment, this form of litter accounts for close to 26,454 tonnes of waste generated annually in India. Though one of the neglected waste streams, Oceans Conservancy, an international advocacy group, categorised cigarette butts as second among the top three articles collected during beach clean-ups globally. Numerous studies document filters as becoming accumulated masses of potentially toxic waste, posing physical harm to land and marine life when ingested and potentially polluting groundwater near landfills not containing leachate.

A recent study by the Indian Institute of Toxicology suggests that cigarette butts under ambient conditions showed only 37.8% degradation in two years, noting it may pollute long after disposal. The study also went on to suggest the “recycling of cellulose acetate after recovery from the cigarette butts” as one of the immediate solutions to the problem until further data is generated. “Concerned” with the manner of disposal of cigarette/bidi butts in India, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Central Pollution Control Board to lay down guidelines for the disposal of cigarette butts, in the interest of the environment, within three months.

Falling under the category of post-consumer waste, cigarette litter could easily be categorised as a public nuisance, especially for those that have fewer resources to clean it. While ignorance has been a convenient veil, clean-up and disposal costs of such waste need to be borne by the polluter. Litter clean-up costs have risen steadily around major cities in the world, leading to action against this form of pollution.

San Francisco estimated that clearing up tobacco waste costs $22 million annually, while the United Kingdom estimated the cost as close to 140 million pounds annually to clean up burnt cigarette butts. Recently, France ordered the tobacco industry to take voluntary action to help curb cigarette butts from littering the streets and contaminating water, or face mandatory legislation. Further, the European Union issued a directive for reduction of impact of plastic products on environment by including cigarette butts under Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) and proposing incentives to develop less-polluting alternatives.

The Government of India recently proposed draft rules for EPR, which would make a manufacturer responsible for managing post-consumer plastic waste. There is definitely more than one reason for cigarette litter to be covered under the EPR scheme to make producers responsible and assign accountability.

This would also be consistent with article 5.3 of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Treaty that India signed in 2004. This may also mean that the final user will end up paying marginally more for the product and indirectly supporting environmental clean-up.

Last-mile collection may be the most challenging part of managing this stream. India could take cue from countries such as Japan who have set up dedicated smoking zones in public/private spaces so that butt waste can be collected and managed effectively from designated places. The Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016, combined with a slew of steps by states to curb single-use plastics, has definitely seen a political consensus in India. A steady increase in tobacco consumption is bound to exacerbate the litter associated with it. Voluntary product stewardship leading to EPR will certainly have a profound impact on increasing stakeholder awareness on this form of litter. The inclusion of cigarette butt litter under Plastic EPR will create more resources to deal with this form of waste. NGT, flagging off a pertinent issue, provides the government with a certain opportunity not only to improve its stand on cigarette butt litter but also allay concerns related to its waste management.

Kaushik Chandrasekhar is an associate fellow and Suneel Pandey is director, Centre for Waste Management, TERI The views expressed are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
app
Close
If a couple marrying under SMA did not want their details to be made public, they could not be compelled to do so. (AFP)
If a couple marrying under SMA did not want their details to be made public, they could not be compelled to do so. (AFP)

The Allahabad High Court stands up for personal liberty

By Gautam Bhatia
UPDATED ON JAN 26, 2021 06:17 AM IST
The judgment of the Allahabad High Court represents an important judicial pushback against the dominant ideology of State interference in questions of marriage, including by empowering social and vigilante groups.
Close
The legal tool of temporary injunction has become a gagging tool for plaintiffs to shut down books that portray them in harsh light (Shutterstock)
The legal tool of temporary injunction has become a gagging tool for plaintiffs to shut down books that portray them in harsh light (Shutterstock)

Free speech and the death of a book

By Chiki Sarkar
UPDATED ON JAN 26, 2021 06:15 AM IST
In the last four years, I have dealt with two such cases, and I have a small list of books. Most of my fellow publishers have also dealt with such cases in the last few years — in some cases they have won, in others they have withdrawn the book. A legal tool that is to be used sparingly is turning into a weapon wielded with far less care, far less thought.
Close
Non-elected institutions such as the judiciary and media have to play a balancing role. The danger is when they also come to be perceived as the voices of the majority and against non-majorities. People will then resort to methods that Ambedkar rejected as unconstitutional (Manoj Dhaka/Hindustan Times)
Non-elected institutions such as the judiciary and media have to play a balancing role. The danger is when they also come to be perceived as the voices of the majority and against non-majorities. People will then resort to methods that Ambedkar rejected as unconstitutional (Manoj Dhaka/Hindustan Times)

A roadmap to reform democracy

By Ram Madhav
UPDATED ON JAN 26, 2021 06:16 AM IST
Elected institutions must become less majoritarian, while other institutions must give voice to non-majorities and provide balance
Close
US President Joe Biden swears in presidential appointees in a virtual ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, after his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States, January 20, 2021 (REUTERS)
US President Joe Biden swears in presidential appointees in a virtual ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, after his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States, January 20, 2021 (REUTERS)

How I erred on Biden and Blinken

UPDATED ON JAN 24, 2021 06:26 AM IST
For a man who makes a career out of talking, I missed out on two God-given opportunities because I felt I had nothing to say. I met Biden in July 2013 in Delhi, but didn’t take sufficient interest in him. in 2015, i interviewed Antony Blinken, but failed to stay in touch
Close
In India, many women in general and those with disabilities in particular have to face poverty, poor health conditions, little or no income, lower education levels and isolation. (Amal KS/HT PHOTO)
In India, many women in general and those with disabilities in particular have to face poverty, poor health conditions, little or no income, lower education levels and isolation. (Amal KS/HT PHOTO)

Focusing on women with disabilities

UPDATED ON JAN 24, 2021 06:25 AM IST
Government schemes, which have been a lifeline for so many women in these trying times, must be responsive to the needs of women with disabilities. For a start, the government could use its robust grassroots systems with its health workers to create awareness in families about the need to not compromise on health and education for women with disabilities.
Close
Bose started a newspaper, rose steadily through the Congress, organised ground movements with his rousing addresses, and eventually became mayor in 1930.
Bose started a newspaper, rose steadily through the Congress, organised ground movements with his rousing addresses, and eventually became mayor in 1930.

Firebrand who shaped Bengal’s politics, culture

UPDATED ON JAN 23, 2021 07:07 AM IST
Born in Cuttack in 1897 in a prominent Bengali family, Subhas Chandra Bose went to college in erstwhile Calcutta and chose the city as his political arena.
Close
Heads of states of important countries stood by him and Netaji lit the fire of the freedom struggle beyond India’s shores.
Heads of states of important countries stood by him and Netaji lit the fire of the freedom struggle beyond India’s shores.

Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: Champion of freedom who inspired the world

By hindustantimes.com
PUBLISHED ON JAN 23, 2021 06:35 AM IST
Netaji was born in Cuttack in Odisha in 1897, graduated from Kolkata, and proved his mettle by becoming an Indian Civil Services (ICS) officer. But he was not accustomed to a life of comfort and amenities that came with his job. He was a warrior, who had to wage the freedom struggle.
Close
Part of the continuing fascination with Bose is the attraction of the rebel. His dramatic escape from house arrest in Calcutta in 1941 and arrival in Berlin is the stuff of myth.(HT Archives)
Part of the continuing fascination with Bose is the attraction of the rebel. His dramatic escape from house arrest in Calcutta in 1941 and arrival in Berlin is the stuff of myth.(HT Archives)

The patriot who will never die

By hindustantimes.com
UPDATED ON JAN 23, 2021 09:01 PM IST
As West Bengal heads to elections this year, Netaji’s legacy is once again up for grabs. The central government has announced that Netaji’s birth anniversary will be celebrated as Parakram Diwas.
Close
So many laws, still no solution. Perhaps because there’s a contradiction here. The contradiction in wanting to protect women but within the decorous folds of patriarchy (Hindustan Times)
So many laws, still no solution. Perhaps because there’s a contradiction here. The contradiction in wanting to protect women but within the decorous folds of patriarchy (Hindustan Times)

To protect women, challenge patriarchy

PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 10:42 PM IST
Seldom has the State’s concern to protect one half of its citizens been so high
Close
We journalists, so trapped by egos and the ratings wars, have brought this moment upon ourselves (shutterstock)
We journalists, so trapped by egos and the ratings wars, have brought this moment upon ourselves (shutterstock)

When invasion of privacy comes back full circle

PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 10:39 PM IST
The sanctimony that a section of the media wears like a second skin comes undone so fast when the scrutiny is on them.
Close
The mega-project, with an initial outlay of $ 46 billion, envisages CPEC as a hub with Gwadar’s port, energy, transport infrastructure and industrial cooperation as its four main spokes.(REUTERS)
The mega-project, with an initial outlay of $ 46 billion, envisages CPEC as a hub with Gwadar’s port, energy, transport infrastructure and industrial cooperation as its four main spokes.(REUTERS)

CPEC: China’s designs, Pakistan’s ambivalence, and India’s opposition

By Sujan Chinoy
UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 08:35 PM IST
Economic motivation apart, China seeks to use the CPEC to consolidate its presence in a disputed region. If internal instability overwhelms Pakistan in the future, the CPEC affords China an opportunity to claim Hunza on the basis of specious historical records.
Close
Women farmers during the ongoing protest against the new farm laws, Ghazipur (Delhi-UP border), January 18, 2021 (Sakib Ali /Hindustan Times)
Women farmers during the ongoing protest against the new farm laws, Ghazipur (Delhi-UP border), January 18, 2021 (Sakib Ali /Hindustan Times)

The political economy driving farm protests

By Neelanjan Sircar
UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 08:30 PM IST
The concentration of political and economic power has made democratic contestation challenging. Citizens are finding other methods
Close
Given the fragile nature of social protection for these working women, all provision of maternity protection should be universally applicable to all working women regardless of the consistency or duration of work and independent of their current status of employment. ((SHUTTERSTOCK))
Given the fragile nature of social protection for these working women, all provision of maternity protection should be universally applicable to all working women regardless of the consistency or duration of work and independent of their current status of employment. ((SHUTTERSTOCK))

The government must universalise maternity benefits

By Dipa Sinha, Jashodhara Dasgupta
UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 08:33 PM IST
Maternity benefits should be a right of all workers regardless of employment status, or the number of children
Close
Actions will need to address affordability of phones and computers, female digital literacy and its social context and inadequate technical content dedicated to women and girls (HT File Photo)
Actions will need to address affordability of phones and computers, female digital literacy and its social context and inadequate technical content dedicated to women and girls (HT File Photo)

Enhancing women’s employment is key to economic recovery

By Sanjay Kathuria
UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 06:19 AM IST
Recovery efforts cannot be gender-blind, because, as the saying goes, “gender-blind is not gender-neutral.” There are four areas where government policy can help ameliorate long-standing issues.
Close
Relatively speaking, the number of people reporting side effects is a fraction of the total immunised (REUTERS)
Relatively speaking, the number of people reporting side effects is a fraction of the total immunised (REUTERS)

Have faith in the vaccines | HT Editorial

UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 06:18 AM IST
India began its vaccination drive against Covid-19 on Saturday
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP