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Regulating the disposal of cigarette butts as toxic hazardous waste
  1. Richard L Barnes
  1. Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, Dan Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Richard L Barnes, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco, 530 Parnassus Ave, Suite 366 San Francisco, CA 94143-1390; USA; richard.barnes{at}ucsf.edu

Abstract

The trillions of cigarette butts generated each year throughout the world pose a significant challenge for disposal regulations, primarily because there are millions of points of disposal, along with the necessity to segregate, collect and dispose of the butts in a safe manner, and cigarette butts are toxic, hazardous waste. There are some hazardous waste laws, such as those covering used tyres and automobile batteries, in which the retailer is responsible for the proper disposal of the waste, but most post-consumer waste disposal is the responsibility of the consumer. Concepts such as extended producer responsibility (EPR) are being used for some post-consumer waste to pass the responsibility and cost for recycling or disposal to the manufacturer of the product. In total, 32 states in the US have passed EPR laws covering auto switches, batteries, carpet, cell phones, electronics, fluorescent lighting, mercury thermostats, paint and pesticide containers, and these could be models for cigarette waste legislation. A broader concept of producer stewardship includes EPR, but adds the consumer and the retailer into the regulation. The State of Maine considered a comprehensive product stewardship law in 2010 that is a much better model than EPR. By using either EPR or the Maine model, the tobacco industry will be required to cover the cost of collecting and disposing of cigarette butt waste. Additional requirements included in the Maine model are needed for consumers and businesses to complete the network that will be necessary to maximise the segregation and collection of cigarette butts to protect the environment.

  • Cigarette butts
  • toxic waste
  • precautionary principle
  • extended producer responsibility
  • product stewardship
  • advocacy
  • environment
  • public policy

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Footnotes

  • Funding This work was funded by the University of California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program IDEA grant no. 17T-0014.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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