The United Nations Environment Program and the Secretariat of the Framework Convention of the World Health Organization for Tobacco Control will soon launch a campaign on social networks that aims to raise awareness about the environmental and health impact caused by microplastics present in cigarettes butts, the most discarded residue in the world.
The partnership is facilitated through UNEP’s Clean Seas campaign, a global coalition comprised of 63 countries devoted to ending marine plastic pollution.
The annual production of cigarettes worldwide exceeds six billion. In each of cigarettes, there are filters composed mainly of microplastics known as cellulose acetate fibres. When disposed of improperly, cigarette butts decompose due to the action of sunlight and humidity, helping to release these microplastics, heavy metals and other chemical substances, impacting the quality of ecosystems.
“The Secretariat of the WHO FCTC has the technical expertise of the impact of tobacco products on not just human health but also on the environment,” said Atif Butt, UNEP’s Chief of Public Advocacy
“By joining UNEP’s and the Secretariat of the WHO FCTC’s expertise together under the Clean Seas activation on microplastics, we aim to highlight how our health is intrinsically linked to that of our planet” she added.
Cigarette litter is the most commonly dumped garbage in the world, accounting for about 766.6 million kilograms of toxic waste annually. Also, this plastic waste is commonly dumped on beaches and makes marine ecosystems more susceptible to chemical leaks into the sea and cause long-term deaths in marine organisms, including birds, fish, mammals, plants and animals.
These microplastics also enter the food chain and are associated with serious human health impacts, which can include changes to genetics, brain development, respiration rates and more.