Crores of cigarette butts litter the city

Bangalore BBMP

The NGT had issued directives for cigarette butt disposal a year ago, but nothing has been done.

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) still does not have a separate disposal system for cigarette butts, a year after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to lay down guidelines to do so. The NGT ordered this in Sept. 2020 and wanted it to be implemented in three months since then.   

According to National Biotechnology Institute of India (NCBI), more than 275 million people in India smoke cigarettes and bidis.

BBMP segregates waste into  three categories: wet waste, dry waste and sanitary waste but it doesn’t have any law to regulate the segregation of cigarette litter. According to cigarette vendors of the city, the accumulated cigarette waste is simply transferred in common bins.  

A research by Indian Institute of Technology  Roorkee  for NGT, explained that cigarette butts have plastic fibers (cellulose acetate) that are non- biodegradable, wrapping paper and rayon. The butts have shown only 37.8  percent degradation in two years in soil under ambient conditions, said a 2015 report of NCBI.

The report said that around 31 lakh butts contribute to the daily litter of Bengaluru, making the water and soil toxic. These littered cigarette butts carry chemicals such as arsenic, lead, mercury and cobalt which contaminate water  The World Health Organization (WHO), has said that long term exposure to arsenic causes cancer and skin lesions.

“After smoking people throw the cigarette butts which goes into drains, then into water bodies, and to the rivers and tons of them get collected into the ocean, these butts contain highly toxic chemicals which animals also consume causing them a lot of problems,” explained Dr. Yellappa Reddy, Chairman at the Bangalore Environment Trust and Former Secretary of the Department of Ecology and Environment.

With systematic segregation, the waste can be recycled into stuffing or fillers for toys, pillows and mosquito repellant. Naman Gupta who runs a Noida-based NGO Code Effort Pvt.Ltd said, “Our organization collects cigarette butts from different states of our country on contract basis. In 2020, we collected 10,000 kgs in 3000 units which means more than three crore cigarette butts from Karnataka and recycled them.”

An officer of Plastic Waste Management Division of CPCB  said,“We have already directed Karnataka Pollution Control Board (KPCB) regarding the separate disposal of cigarette butts and to minimize the plastic used in its production and it will be officiated in few months.”