Researchers have shown how industries could work together to recycle cigarette butts into bricks, in a step-by-step implementation plan for saving energy and solving a global littering problem. Over 6 trillion cigarettes are produced each year globally, resulting in 1.2 million tons of toxic waste dumped into the environment. RMIT University researchers have previously shown fired-clay bricks with 1% recycled cigarette butt content are as strong as normal bricks and use less energy to produce. Their analysis showed if just 2.5% of global annual brick production incorporated 1% cigarette butts, this would offset total cigarette production each year. The research team has now developed a detailed plan for bringing the brickmaking and waste management industries together, to implement cigarette butt recycling into bricks at mass scale. Lead researcher Associate Professor Abbas Mohajerani said cigarette butts were saturated with toxic chemicals, including over 60 known to cause cancer.
“Firing butts into bricks is a reliable and practical way to deal with this terrible environmental problem, while at the same time cutting brickmaking production costs,” Mohajerani said. “We need to do far more to stop cigarette butts from polluting our streets, rivers and oceans, and prevent them leaching harmful toxins into our environment. “Our ultimate goal is a world free of cigarette butt pollution: our industry implementation plan outlines the practical steps needed to bring this vision to reality.” The plan, published in a special issue of the journal Materials, shows how cigarette butts can be collected and recycled on an industrial scale.