MEDASSET and the Hellenic Cancer Society announced their new collaboration in a joint press conference at the Grande Bretagne Hotel, Athens, on the 28th of June. They will work together in the context of MEDASSET’s “Clean Seas: Swear to Care” campaign lead by the slogan: “Smoking seriously harms the beach”.
Six trillion cigarette butts are manufactured globally each year. Of these, 4.5 trillion are dropped as litter in public places and most of them end up in the sea. Forty percent (40%) of the litter items found on Mediterranean beaches are cigarette butts. These figures tally with MEDASSET’s own analysis of the materials collected during beach clean-ups, which it first began organising back in 1998.
Cigarette butts pose a serious threat to both humans and the environment. The cultivation of tobacco makes use of fertilisers, pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and rodenticides. It is estimated that each cigarette contains around 4,000 toxic substances among which are cadmium, nicotine, molybdenum and arsenic. Filters are designed to capture and store some of the ingredients of smoke. As they degrade, these toxic substances are released, polluting both the coastal and marine environments. Research indicates that the median deadly dose for marine organisms is approximately one cigarette butt per litre of either fresh or salt water.
“Cigarette butts are toxic waste, not just litter” stated the President of the Hellenic Cancer Society, Mr Evangelos Filopoulos.
Numerous marine creatures, such as fish and turtles misidentify cigarette butts as food items and ingest them, while most people mistakenly believe that cigarette filters are made of cotton or paper. In fact they are made of plastic fibres that take up to 15 years to break down in the environment.
Konstantina Kostoula, who runs MEDASSET’s “Clean Seas: Swear to Care” campaign noted: “Every time we leave a fag end on the beach, flick one into the sea or drop one into the gutter on the streets of our cities, we should be aware that we are effectively ‘feeding’ the sea creatures that may end up on our plates, a diet of plastic garbage.”
“Cigarette filters are each made up of 12,000 plastic fibres. When we throw one into the sea it’s as though we were introducing to the water 12,000 individual pieces of small plastic garbage (microplastics) whose effects on human health and the environment have not yet been adequately quantified”, Konstantina added.
We invite hotels, businesses, ferry companies, marinas, town councils and others that wish to join us in passing on the word that we should aim for a butt-free Summer to contact us so that we can send them the electronic version of our campaign poster: “SMOKING SERIOUSLY HARMS THE BEACH.”
The campaign, whose first day was dedicated to the memory of Rigas Karavias, was projected on the screens of Athens’s urban railways in cooperation with the railway’s management company, Urban Rail Transport S.A.
The Grande Bretagne Hotel, which is a member of the “Clean Seas: Swear to Care” campaign’s network, graciously hosted our joint press conference.
ASAP Athens Communication Agency created the campaign poster on a pro bono basis.