New Delhi: Let’s face it, cigarettes are harmful yet there are enough smokers around the globe to make cigarette butts, one of the most littered items in the world. Cigarette butts are made of a synthetic polymer, a kind of non-biodegradable plastic that takes around 10 years to fully decompose. Yes, that’s right! There is an adverse effect of the littered cigarette butts on the environment. The problem gets compounded as trillions of cigarette butts are littered every year worldwide, polluting the water bodies, landfills and so on. In India alone, it is estimated that more than 100 billion cigarette butts are being dumped every year.
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However, it seems that there is a solution for this problem. A team from the Australian Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University, led by scientist Dr. Abbas Mohajerani found out after a research of five years that cigarette butts can actually help in the construction of footpaths and can also improve the quality of roads built.
I was keen to find solutions to mounting cigarette butt waste. I have been trying for many years to find sustainable and practical methods for solving the problem of cigarette butt pollution, says Dr. Abbas Mohajerani, who is also a senior lecturer in RMIT’s School of Engineering.
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The Innovation That Can Change The Waste Game Of The Country
Talking about the innovation, Dr Mohajerani said, Cigarette filters are designed to trap hundreds of toxic chemicals and the only ways to control these chemicals are either by effective encapsulation for the production of new lightweight aggregates or by incorporation in fired clay bricks. We chose the first option and as a part of the research we coated the cigarette butts in bitumen and paraffin wax to form a gooey black oil-based kind of substance and then added to asphalt mixtures. The end result – we got a perfect new road construction material that can save the environment from huge waste problems.
The research also found out that this new material is able to withstand a range of conditions – from light to heavy traffic. It also highlighted that this innovative product apart from solving the huge waste problem caused by cigarette butts can also effectively reduce the urban heat island effect – an urban area or metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities.
The testing of the samples to know the stability, resistance and other important aspects when it comes to road construction was undertaken with the Marshall method in accordance with Standards in Australia.
About The Research
Dr Mohajerani became a world-renowned researcher in 2016 for his research in recycling cigarette butts into bricks. The research has been published in the journal of Construction and Building Materials (Elsevier).
What The Numbers Say
Around 6 trillion cigarettes are produced every year in the world, leading to more than 1.2 million tonnes of cigarette butt waste. What’s more, these figures are expected to increase by more than 50 per cent by 2025. Innovations like these, can help utilise the volume of the cigarette butt waste more effectively and also help the cause of the environment.