Did you know that cigarettes are one of the most harmful pollutants on the planet? And we aren’t just taking about the toxic nicotine, it’s the butts which cause a lot of damage. They are actually worse than plastic bottles and straws. Here’s more reason to ban cigarettes – butts can take more than 10 years to degrade. And the toxins left behind, even after the butts are gone, include harmful nicotine, lead, and arsenic.
Cigarette butts are the most abundant form of plastic waste in the world, with about 4.5 trillion individual butts polluting our global environment, says a report by Earth Day. Because the butts are primarily plastic, they contain non-biodegradable plastic polymer. And according to the European Environment Agency, they are among the worst littering offenders on beaches in Europe.
Cigarette butts are a huge environmental issue on Spain’s 3,000 miles of coastline. Apart from contaminating the soil, they also endanger marine life.
Now a petition by Spain’s citizens is set to put a stop to all that. A new law, introduced on December 23 following a petition with over 283,000 signatures, will ban smoking on all of Spain’s beaches. Those caught breaking the law will face fines of upto £1,700.
Some tourist spots in Spain, including Barcelona and the Canary Islands, already have a smoking ban on beaches in place. In Europe, Sardinia and some areas in southern France have bans on beach smoking. However, Spain’s law would be the first nationwide ban in Europe.
Across the world, countries are trying to figure out ways to cut down plastic pollution. In 2020, scientists discovered huge quantities of microplastics in river Thames in London. Tonnes of microplastics accumulate in the water which is consumed by marine fauna.This has severe harmful effects on their health ranging from brain damage, and poisoning, to changes in reproductive cycles. Plastic even gets accumulated in the bodies of insects like lugworms. The Zoological Society of London and the Natural History Museum collaborated on the research to find staggering evidence of the extent of microplastics contaminating Thames.
Related: The Rising Plastic Barter System