Alfi Shahreen Chowdhury: When you think about plastic waste, you think about plastic bottles, food wrappers, and grocery bags. Do you know what is the top plastic polluter is? It is cigarettes butts. Yes, that 30 mm extended filter is the leading plastic polluter. Not only smoking destroys health, but it also destroys the environment. Now, its butts are contributing to plastic waste.
Each year the consumption of cigarettes is more than 5 trillion. The estimated weight of 5 trillion cigarettes butts is about 1 billion kg. The white wool looking thing inside the filter of cigarettes is actually a form of plastic called cellulose acetate. This plastic material takes eighteen months to ten years to decompose. That is a very long time. Harmful toxins are found inside these butts that are hazardous to marine life. It also slows the growth of plants.
What is the solution to this problem? You may have been thinking that smoking should be ban. Because it is harmful to both health and the environment. However, in Bangladesh, many people earn their living by selling cigarettes. They will be unemployed. Another fact is that quitting smoking is not a piece of cake. Smoking is very addictive; the process of quitting is very long. A chain smoker has to go through a significant amount of means to quit smoking. If we ban smoking tomorrow, the people who are addicted to smoking will go through many severe mental health problems. The tobacco companies are paying a tremendous amount of tax to the government. So banning smoking is not the solution.
I will suggest that the government should take action. The action is that every stall or shop that sells cigarettes must keep a particular bin. That bin is specifically designed to collect cigarette butts. Therefore, it is easier to collect cigarette butts. Another action should be that the government should penalize people who throw cigarette butts on the street. The fined money should be 50 takas, so it is not harsh on citizens.
If you are thinking, we will collect these cigarette butts and dumped it in the river. You are wrong. Because if we do that, we are ultimately destroying the environment. So what should we do? We should recycle it. Now, I will tell you how we can reuse it. The cigarette butts have two major components, one is paper another is fiber. These papers can be turned into mosquito repellents. However, these fibers contain toxic materials that can be removed by using a particular chemical. This solution for recycling cigarette butts was made by an Indian man named Naman Gupta.
This solution deals with one problem created by smoking. However, it does not deal with carbon emission released in the atmosphere due to smoking. Therefore, my writing is to solve a challenge, not to justify smoking.
(The writer is a participant of National Environmental Writing Contest 2020 and can be reached at [email protected])