Transforming waste into resources: in Brazil, cigarette butts become paper

Dec 02, 2016 | written by:

They are everywhere, along the roadsides, along the sidewalks, around manholes, in the flower beds, often in high concentration near gathering place such as bus stops or public places. Old and faded, or fresh and still smouldering. They are the symbol of environmental pollution: cigarette butts, the production of which stands around 6 trillion per year, produce 1.2 million tons of garbage. Because of their chemical components, they can not be recycled easily and they are highly toxic.

How making them, at least in part, 'friends' of the environment? The pollution alarm has spawned various forms of recycling and, after bricks and plastic production, a new idea comes from Brazil. “200 million cigarettes are smoked every day in Brazil. What happens to the filters? - Marco Poiato, founder of the project, explains in this video - "In our area there wasn't a specific system for the management of this type of waste so in 2012 we decided to open a recycling facility. It is the first of its kind in the world. It all starts with the production and the installation of metal boxes equipped with three holes for the collection of cigarette butts on which are affixed anti-smoking campaigns in defense of the environment - says Poiato - Once cigarette butts are collected, the filters are separated from everything else and the material is weighed. These are transferred into a storage tank containing a solution of water and chemicals to dissolve and cancel the toxic substances they contain. The material obtained then is filtered and pressed and that's how the cellulose mass is ready to be transformed into paper. The paper, now, has been used for invitations, books and notebooks covers and glove boxes but it hasn't the same quality of paper we are used to. The charm of this, however, lies in the fact that the final result is obtained from the reuse of wastes. This is extremely good for the environment because now we no longer need to cut down trees for paper production, but we can use the cigarette butts”.

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