Most of the complaints one hears about smoking concern its health hazards, while there is much less said about the damage that is still done after the cigarette is extinguished. Yet the cotton buds and straws targeted by those aiming to combat plastic pollution come a poor second in terms of polluting the seas – cigarette butts are clearly the winner.
It is certainly true that most of the materials in cigarettes are natural ones. Yet the filter, that is to say the butt, also contains plastic, a total of some 4000 compounds, with the result that a single discarded cigarette butt can pollute as much as 1000 litres of water.
If we add that 5.5 trillion cigarettes are manufactured each year, it is easy to conclude that cigarettes are a tremendous source of pollution. Luckily, many people have recognised the risk that the stubs pose. A number of NGOs are working to raise awareness of the problem, and there is a bill before the European Parliament that would oblige manufacturers to make provisions for the appropriate treatment of their products.
Scientists have studied the cetaceans washed ashore over the last twenty years. The saddest case was that of a 5.3 metre young sperm whale found on the island of Mykonos: it had swallowed 135 pieces of plastic weighing 3.2 kg in total.
Environmentalists removed more than 40 tonnes of plastic waste from the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California, says a CNN news report.
The patches of plastic that look like used chewing gum are not only indications of the amount of waste accumulating in the oceans, they also represent a risk for the organisms that live and feed on the rocks.
More than two billion people worldwide have no access to safely managed clean drinking water, while more than four billion people do not have adequate sanitation services, according to a report announced in Geneva by UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
On the 15th of June, 633 divers put on their diving suits and oxygen tanks and dove underwater by the shore of Deerfield Beach in Florida – to pick up litter.
Although the Mediterranean Sea represents less than 1% of the global ocean area, it contains 7% of the total quantity of microplastics. More than half a million tonnes of plastic are discarded into the sea every year, equivalent to 33,800 half-litre PET bottles thrown away every minute – a report published by the WWF on June 8, World Oceans Day, revealed.
In addition to climate change and global warming, the continuous production of inconceivable amounts of waste is also endangering our environment, and most of that waste consists of single-use plastics.
Dead zone areas in the region are not new phenomena, but in 2019, the area affected by hypoxia, a condition of low oxygen that can no longer support any form of life has grown much larger than expected, and the cause is likely to be human activities.
An unexpected problem associated with the pollution of lakes came into focus last January, when a highly polluted lake in India caught fire because of the massive quantities of waste in it – and according to locals, it was not first time, either.
The severe pollution of waters is an increasingly alarming problem, with many places around the world having no access to clean drinking water, which may have tragic consequences. In 2018, the Chinese artist Brother Nut put on a special exhibition to bring attention to the damage caused by water pollution.