'The Butt Ugly Truth' -- a Tale of Youth and Hope

By Contributor
May 10th, 2016

By: Jean Paul Kamand, Aman Mohar, Vanessa Vuen Parrenas, Navin Gill, Manesha Dulay, and Jasmin Mander

We are a group of conscientious students in a Leadership 11 Class from R.C. Palmer Secondary School in  BC’s Lower Mainland, working together. The President of  WediditServices, Jean Paul Kamand,  was invited as a speaker to our Leadership Class.  He left a strong impression on us and we were excited to work with him on this initiative.

We are currently addressing the negative results of cigarette butts in our waters — streams, lakes and oceans. This article will address the impact of cigarette butts and the environment, sand what we hope to do about it. Cigarette butts are the number one trash items in the entire world and our group is confident that we can positively affect our environment, at least from an urbanization point of view, for the betterment of our planet.

According to World Health Organization, it is estimated that over 15 billion cigarettes are sold each day worldwide. Over 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide every year – that is about 2 billion pounds of chemical trash. Cigarette filters are the #1 trash item found worldwide and only 10% are properly disposed of.

When it  rains, butts from all over town get washed into storm drains carried by wind and rain, and they empty right into our waters. They pollute the water, and are ingested by wildlife. These filters are often mistaken as food by fishes, birds and  marine mammals.

Not just thousands, not even hundreds of thousands, but millions upon millions of filters end up in our eco-systems! Filters release the same toxic and cancer-causing chemicals found in cigarettes such as Benzene (a chemical derived from petroleum), Ethylphenol and Arsenic. It can actually take up to 15 years for filters to degrade because they are made of  Cellulose Acetate, a plastic material. The chemicals leach out of discarded butts into our streams, rivers and eventually into the Pacific Ocean.

They may be small in size; however, these little butts add up and have the ability to do some major damage in our aquatic eco-systems. They negatively affect the health of animals — and also the health of the  humans who eventually consume those animals as food.

Smokers who treat outdoor spaces as public ashtrays may reconsider their behaviour when they learn that cigarette butts are made of plastic, not of cotton and paper. The possession of knowledge is power; that alone can alleviate the problems we face today.

We are creating an innovative product that aims to prevent pollutants such as cigarette butts from entering our waters by way of storm drains: a Removable Storm Drain Filter that aims to keep debris and pollutants from entering our waters.

Imagine how many jobs and / or volunteering opportunities we can create in our province. Someone would need to maintain and service the drain filters. We feel strongly about this, because people and the community can benefit from a creation that can eliminate pollution, flooding caused by clogged drains, and most importantly cigarette butts from entering our water systems where wild creatures reside.

We hope to empower people and society by our invention, through jobs and volunteering, while benefiting our eco-systems.

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