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Cigarettes in the Environment: Facts, Causes, Problems and Solutions for Littered Cigarette Butts

Cigarettes in the Environment: Facts, Causes, Problems and Solutions for Littered Cigarette Butts

Want to know everything about cigarettes in the environment? Then you've come to the right place! I personally don't smoke, but I have a few smokers in my circle of family and friends. But I'm not surprised that more and more of them are quitting smoking.

After all, with the threat of health consequences, the unpleasant smell or the high price of tobacco, there are numerous reasons for this. Reasons for quitting smoking. The environmental impact of discarded cigarettes is yet another powerful argument. But this is not just an aesthetic problem!

In this article, I would like to show you exactly why cigarette butts pose a massive danger and challenge in nature and what we can all - smokers and non-smokers - do together to combat this problem. Let's go!

Here you can find a short overview in advance:

  1. Statistics
  2. Causes
  3. Follow
  4. Solutions
  5. Closing words

Statistics: How many cigarettes are smoked and thrown into the environment every day?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined thatthat people all over the world about 5.6 trillion cigarettes every year smoke. In Germany, the figure is around 106 billion.1 And up to two thirds of them are carelessly thrown on the floor.

The organization estimates that every year between 340,000 and 680,000 tons of discarded cigarette butts are added to the total and pollute our planet.

This statistic makes cigarettes our biggest waste product in terms of numbers - and the most common human waste found in nature. This theory is also in line with my personal experience with CleanUps on the beaches of this world.

Causes: Why are there so many cigarette butts in the environment?

Causes: Why are there so many cigarette butts in the environment?
Countless cigarettes end up in the environment - but why? | Credits: ©CareElite Facebook

Of course, the first reason for the environmental pollution caused by cigarettes is that simply far too many people smoke. But of course this does not explain why the butts are simply disposed of in nature and flicked onto the sidewalk or out of the car, for example. The root of the problem therefore lies deeper.

Cigarette ends are so small and inconspicuous that they do not pose a great danger from the point of view of many smokers. It therefore lacks awareness for the consequences and repercussions - and certainly also Ignorance a factor.

But there is also still a Social acceptance for throwing away or leaving smoked cigarettes in public places. This is another reason why the behavior (incidentally typical of a Disposable society) at all Habit be

In addition, many people assume that street cleaning will take care of the cleanliness - especially if there are no garbage cans for cigarette butts nearby. Convenience definitely also plays a role.

Ultimately, it is the combination from behavior, lack of Environmental Educationsocial norms and infrastructural deficiencies, which is responsible for the high volume of cigarette butts in the environment.

Consequences: Why are cigarettes not allowed to be thrown away and disposed of in the environment?

Consequences: Why are cigarettes not allowed to be thrown away and disposed of in the environment?

The root of the ecological problem should therefore have become clear. Now we should clarify why it is a problem at all. What's so bad about cigarette butts in the environment? Why shouldn't cigarette butts be thrown away? And what dangers do the butts and their packaging pose?

Here I present the most important reasons - also to make the fog-like smoke disappear and create a a clear view of reality to get.

The filters decompose very slowly in nature

Cigarette filters are not made from absorbent cotton, but from the non-biodegradable plastic cellulose acetatewhich only develops over decades or centuries on the ground or in bodies of water into smaller Microplastics decomposed. It will never disappear completely.

It is of course very similar with the Cigarette packetswhich, although made of paper, are usually surrounded by a plastic film and coating.

Tip: By the way, you can find general inspiration for avoiding waste in everyday life in the articles "Living plastic-free" and "Zero waste tips".

Toxins from cigarettes threaten ecosystems and animals

Cigarette butts are not only plastic waste, but also toxic waste! They contain around 7000 toxic pollutants2such as the Nicotine as a neurotoxin or also Arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, cadmium and benzene.

Every single carelessly discarded cigarette butt can therefore round Contaminate 40 liters of water. For fish and other aquatic and marine life, the toxins then mean an agonizing death. But cigarette waste is also a A threat to biodiversitybecause fish, waterfowl and countless other animal species use the plastic filters or cigarette butts for their food. potential food keep. The animals then die poisoned or starve to death due to a stomach filled with too much plastic.

The climate impact of cigarette smoke should also not be forgotten. Around 84 million tons of CO2 equivalent are blown into the air by all smokers every year, according to the WHO.3

In the end, the toxins or the Plastic also finds its way into the food chainso that the so-called Littering of cigarettes also long-term Consequences for our own health can have.

Important! Discarded butts are also a danger for our children. They put them in their mouths or swallow them, so that the Poison emergency call must be contacted.

Cigarettes cause fires

A single, carelessly discarded cigarette butt with a few embers is enoughto start a forest fire. The risk of fire is particularly high in dry, highly flammable environments.

Ultimately, this also creates a Great danger to animal and human lifefor ecosystems and human property. Another important reason to be more environmentally conscious when smoking - or to stop smoking altogether.

Solutions: What can we all do for fewer cigarettes in the environment?

What to do about cigarettes in the environment?

Warnings on packaging are certainly helping to reduce the total number of smokers in Germany and around the world. But what can be done in practice to ensure that the still large number of smokers behave in a more environmentally conscious way and no longer throw cigarette butts on the ground?

Statutory fines help immensely, of course. Anyone who simply flicks their cigarette butt onto the sidewalk in Berlin, for example, must expect a fine of 120 euros (as of 2024). The fine for throwing away a pack of cigarettes is 35 euros. However, the amount of the severe fines can vary from place to place or region to region.

However, apart from this, there are still Many other optionsthat do not fall into the "punishment" category, but are voluntary and really easy to implement.

8 tips in the fight against cigarettes in the environment

Here you will find valuable measures and tips against cigarettes in the environment, that each of us (whether smoker or non-smoker) can implement and communicate can:

  1. Stop smoking (here are the best Tips for quitting smoking)
  2. Use a pocket ashtray on the go (is available here*)
  3. Dispose of cigarette butts correctly (in the waste garbage can with ashtray or in the residual waste garbage can)
  4. Roll your own cigarettes with a biodegradable filter (e.g. OCB papers and filters, as well as natural tobacco without nicotine)
  5. Addressing polluters directly (politely but firmly the Environmental awareness promote)
  6. Sign petitions (e.g. for a smoking ban in public places)
  7. Pick up cigarettes (e.g. when going for a walk or taking part in waste collection campaigns)
  8. Explaining the problem (e.g. in the office or with family and friends)

Can you think of any other tips to put an end to the environmental problem caused by cigarette butts? Then feel free to share them with me in the comments column.

Environmentally conscious smoking or quit directly!

Today you found out, how massive the environmental problem with butts is and what consequences it has for ecosystems, the animal world and, not least, us humans.

Ultimately, quitting smoking is the most effective way to do something about it. Because if nobody smoked any more, cigarettes would not be a problem in the environment! Do you see it the same way?

"We are living in dangerous times. Men control nature before they are even able to control themselves."

Albert Schweitzer (more at Environmental protection quotes)

But even if you want to continue smokingyou can use a such pocket ashtrays*The aim is to promote environmentally conscious smoking as much as possible through the use of environmentally friendly, biodegradable filters and by actively addressing those who carelessly flick their butts away (e.g. in the smoking area).

Do you have any questions, suggestions or your own experiences with cigarette butts in nature? Then I look forward to your comment!

Stay environmentally friendly,

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS: Is Eating meat is actually the new smoking? I have dealt with the answer to this question in another article. Have a look!


  1. State capital Mainz: Environmental tip - Cigarette butts in the environment, available at [23.01.2024]. ↩︎
  2. Wiener Umweltanwaltschaft: Waste management - cigarette butts - a mutilation of habitats! (09/2020), available at [23.01.2024]. ↩︎
  3. S. Heinze: Effects of tobacco consumption - How harmful is smoking for the climate and the environment? (as at: 31.05.2022), available at [23.01.2024]. ↩︎
Coffee box Suggestions for improvement

* Links with asterisks are so-called affiliate links. If you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, because I get a small share of the sales revenue - and of course the product price does not change. Thank you for your support and best regards, Christoph!

Christoph Schulz

Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

18 thoughts on “Zigaretten in der Umwelt – Ursachen, Folgen und Lösungen für weggeworfene Zigarettenstummel”

  1. Many people dispose of their cigarette butts in the sewer. I am never sure if I should address them then or not. Is there any data on whether they reach the river, etc.? Thanks

    1. Hello Georg, unfortunately you are right. I do not have numbers, but you can strongly assume!
      Best regards,

        1. Hi Rosier! I read that one cigarette contaminates 40 liters of groundwater. Where did you get your value? Thank you in advance!
          Many greetings

  2. Scientists call for ban on cigarette filters to protect the environment
    My suggestion would be:
    Butt collectors receive 100 - 200 € from the cigarette industry for 1 kg of butts at a delivery point. Within a month, no more butts would be found for collection. Homeless people would rummage through every bush, smokers would collect and deliver their butts and the environment would be clean again.
    I would be interested to hear what you think of my proposal.
    With kind regards
    Horst Reiner Menzel
    Diesel road 8
    71546 Grossaspach
    +497191 924315
    +49170 2976609

    1. Hi! I find every suggestion super, which gives garbage a directly exchangeable value, in order to get it thereby from volunteers from the environment. Thumbs up!
      Greeting, Christoph

    2. Hi Horst-Reiner,
      I also find your suggestion very good. I would like to copy your comment and post it (hopefully with your permission) on my Facebook account.
      MfG G.Dost

    3. Dear Horst Reiner, I think, then would be smoked even more, this is probably not in your sense or?
      Greeting Ilona

  3. Thank you for the interesting article. Unfortunately, we see all too often that cigarette butts are carelessly thrown into the environment. This should be avoided at all costs.
    With best regards,

  4. Even if the filter rots faster, the rest remains tobacco.
    And the nerve toxin of nicotine gets out anyway, by washing out the rain,
    into the groundwater.
    Why is there so little media coverage of this, or so little education of the public?

    1. Hey Paul! I ask myself the same question, which is why I always bring up the subject when I have an interview. The cigarette is by far the object that is most often disposed of in the environment.
      Best regards

  5. The cities and countries should calculate what the collection and disposal of cigarette butts cost.
    Then this could be added to every single cigarette
    u. the proportional amount is paid to the disposers.
    If the "throwaways" have changed, the surcharge may be rescinded.
    That's the only way people will change.
    Further, the film industry should not flaunt the mostly unnecessary smoking.

    1. Hi Horst! Certainly a sensible suggestion - no voluntary measures work when 10 billion cigarette butts end up in the environment every day.... And yes: that smoking is "cool" is entirely due to marketing. My feeling is that the attitude towards smoking is slowly changing for the better and more and more people are quitting.
      Best regards

  6. So, I find it terrible when you carelessly throw the garbage outside on the ground. I've been a smoker for about 40 years (66). I always have a cigarette box with me everywhere. My motto:" It's enough if I harm myself ....I don't have to fabricate this with the environment and in that of children and non-smokers. Hopefully soon comes the legal fine for the discarded cigarette ,then I have to collect in front of the house and in my flower bed less butts.

  7. Here in the house live6 tenants, of which at least 4 smoke, but there are also 5 children from one year to 6 years here in the house. The smokers have now filled a large screw-top glass with water and put the butts in it. When I asked how this is then disposed of, no one knows. Does anyone know this from you? I would be pleased to receive an answer. I have made the suggestion that one should fill either a small ashtray or a can with sand, that would be better or?
    Many greetings Ilona

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