This article was originally posted at: http://envirocycle.com/us/tips/can-i-put-cigarette-butts-in-my-compost .
“There is a lot of controversy around whether it is better to put cigarette butts in the compost or to dispose of them by other means. We are here to clarify this.
We do not recommend putting cigarette butts in the compost. Here are the reasons:
- Cigarette filters are made up almost entirely from a synthetic cellulose acetate polymer. This material does not degrade and only starts breaking down after about 10 years. Moreover, once it comes in contact with water, by leaching, cigarette butts will release dangerous chemicals that are harmful for animals or humans.
- Around 1350 different types of chemicals and additives can be found in one cigarette. Therefore, the leftover tobacco will only decompose after a few months but will do so while releasing dangerous chemicals into the compost.
- Nicotine is in fact a very potent insecticide. If this chemical ends up in your compost, it will kill all the bacteria needed for the composting process.
- Tobacco also contains the Mosaic virus, which is a disease that rarely kills plants but lowers dramatically the quality and quantity of the leaves, flowers and fruits produced. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, ground cherries and ornamental plants are usually the most affected by this disease.
Consequently, once you finish smoking your cigarette, we recommend extinguishing it and disposing of the butt into an adequate container.
Written by the Envirocycle team.”
This seems to be the more common perspective on the issue of composting cigarette butts. While it’s not the most extensive, I don’t really feel that there’s a need to write at length about this for just a few simple reasons.
Cigarettes contain around 600 additives, and up to 60 carcinogens in the spongy, foamy butt- which can of course leach into soil and water. While most of these chemicals can most likely be broken down by thermophilic bacteria in a hot and hefty compost pile, is it really worth it?
I don’t think so.
I’m not confident about composting lead, arsenic and cadmium amongst other carcinogens. I realize that these are items tested for in most soil tests, but I feel that it isn’t worth knowledgeably adding a few dozen carcinogens (at minimum) to a compost pile if I’m going to grow veggies with the results.
What’s unfortunate is that if I send these cigarette butts to a landfill, the landfill will eventually leach out these chemicals along with everything else into the soil & water. I find it odd that landfills are permitted to leak, and worse that there is no such thing is a landfill that doesn’t leak.
Definitely a harsh issue from both ends…