It sounds crazy — and in fact it might sound controversial.
But the folks at Terracycle, known for creative upcycling of big-company consumer waste, have made a deal with … Big Tobacco!
Here’s the thinking, and it’s definitely interesting:
We have been attempting to work with the tobacco industry for some time. And I am happy to say that we recently signed our first and second tobacco deals (both programs will start in a few weeks). One is with Canada’s largest tobacco company, the other with one of America’s largest tobacco companies. Both programs will allow TerraCycle to collect and recycle cigarette butts and other cigarette-related waste.
Regardless of what we think of tobacco, we can all agree that the litter caused by cigarette butts is a major issue. In Texas, the Department of Transportation has estimated that more than 130 million cigarette butts will find their way onto Texas highways this year. Globally, it has been estimated that more than a trillion butts make their way into our environment as discarded waste every year.
Our solution involves separating the paper, tobacco and ash from the filter. The organic materials are then composted properly, leaving the part that looks like white cotton but is actually a form of plastic called cellulose acetate (while this material can be made from organic materials almost all cigarette makers use plastics).
The cellulose acetate is then sanitized and injection-molded into a plastic that can be used for a variety of uses, such as plastic pallets and car berms for factories.