Did you know that cigarette butts are not fully biodegradable? But there is a solution: TerraCycle, the company that strives to find a way to recycle everything, offers a Cigarette Waste Recycling Program. Simply sign up for TerraCycle, collect the trash, and ship it for recycling.
After being thrown in the street, on the beach or wherever they fall, cigarette butts take 18 months to 10 years break down. Because the filters are made of a type of plastic, they do not biodegrade. Instead, they release microfibers in the environment, adding to our growing problem of microplastic pollution. Discarded butts also release chemicals and heavy metals, the same things that kill smokers, into the environment. They often wash away street gutters, polluting our waterways and harming fish and other wildlife.
Recycling cigarette butts is an important way to clean up after ourselves. It’s good for the neighborhood or the beach, and good for the planet. Are you a smoker or do you live or work with smokers? Or maybe you’re one of our heroes picking up cigarette butts from beaches, parks or neighborhood streets. Whatever your relationship with cigarettes, TerraCycle’s program is good news for those concerned about the waste they create.
What TerraCycle Accepts
TerraCycle’s cigarette waste recycling program accepts extinguished cigarettes, cigarette filters, loose tobacco pouches, plastic outer wrappers, inner foil wrappers, rolling papers and ashes. To ensure proper recycling, do not send any other waste with these materials. (If you have cardboard packaging, recycle it through your local recycling program.) The service is free, but you must provide your own containers. Airtight containers are best to reduce odors.
Do you have a business or community location where you would like to pick up cigarette butts? You can buy aluminum cigarette bins to be installed in high traffic areas. When the container is three-quarters full, empty the cigarette waste into a plastic bag, print a free shipping label, and send it in a sturdy box to TerraCycle for safe recycling.
Tips for successful recycling
Make sure cigarettes are completely extinguished before picking them up.
Store trash in a resealable plastic bag, disposable plastic container, plastic shopping bag, or garbage bag.
When ready to ship, secure containers to seal in odor and ashes. Take the time to wrap waste carefully to remove the odor for you and the people handling it in transit.
Download and print a free TerraCycle shipping label, place your full container in a sturdy box, and ship it to TerraCycle.
How are cigarettes recycled?
With funding from the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company, the cigarette waste you collect is recycled into a variety of industrial products, such as plastic pallets. Check out this infographic from TerraCycle that explains the process.
Featured Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay. Originally published on July 4, 2020, this article was updated in June 2023.