Florida has over 8,400 miles of coastline including tidal areas, and whether you like the soft white powder beaches of the gulf or the coarse sand and rough surf of the Atlantic, Florida beaches are well loved by residents and tourists alike. That’s why it is so important to understand the impact we are having on our oceans by discarding cigarettes on the ground, whether you are miles from the beach or sitting with your toes in the surf. On World Oceans Day, take a moment to read some ideas on what you can do to help keep our oceans healthy.
Cigarette butts, one of the most littered item in the world, make their way from our sidewalks and streets through storm drains that carry it out to our oceans. Beach goers add to the litter by disposing their butts at the beach. Only a small portion of the litter is cleaned up, the rest becomes food for animals and birds and washes out into the ocean.
Most people believe that cigarette butts are biodegradable, but they are not. While cellulose fibers degrade naturally, most filters are made up of over 12,000 white cellulose acetate plastic fibers which looks like cotton, but degrades very slowly. The heavy metal toxins trapped by the filter slowly leach out, killing or injuring the wildlife.
Since tobacco litter makes up between 25% and 50% of all visible litter and costs millions every year to clean up, some ideas have been proposed to reduce the amount since it isn’t going to go away anytime soon. Some believe that since the tobacco industry is responsible for producing a “toxic waste product,” they should be held accountable for the cleanup. This could be achieved by substantially increasing taxes on tobacco products which would be used for clean up. Another way to reduce litter is for the tobacco industry to have a “mandatory take-back policy.” Prohibiting smoking, whether traditional or electronic cigarettes,in all outdoor public spaces, such as parks and beaches, and imposing stiff fines for those caught breaking the laws would be a great start to cleaning up the beaches.
While none of these ideas will be implemented anytime soon, our oceans need a change from the casual, indiscriminate tossing of toxic waste onto our beautiful beaches. Since the tobacco industry doesn’t seem to want the responsibility of cleaning up a mess they created, perhaps it is time new laws are put into place and enforced as to where people can smoke in public.
CLICK HERE for information on the environmental impact of cigarettes.