No Tobacco Day: 400 butts picked up on the beach by Taranautes

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31 May 2014

No Tobacco Day: 400 butts picked up on the beach by Taranautes

Saturday, May 31, the crew answered the call of the Surfrider Foundation Europe. Equipped with garbage bags and gloves, the Taranautes walked the beaches of Charmettes and Le Cros in Six-Fours (Var) collecting trash.  This “Ocean Initiative,” the second this month, allowed them to collect 200 liters (20 kg.) of rubbish. Plastic was clearly present in all its forms, but cigarette butts  especially caught the crew’s attention. Volunteers collected the cigarette butts one by one for two hours, participating in their own way in the World No Tobacco Day.

Responsible for education at Surfrider Mediterranean, Benjamin Van Hoorebeke said with a big smile,  “The tobacco industry had a good idea in making the filters yellow: they show up really well in the sand!” It’s true, the color draws attention. When you bend down to pick up a butt, you quickly realize it’s not alone. Sometimes 3 or 4 others are lying near the first. Brigitte Martin, a volunteer for Surfrider for almost 3 years, is particularly disturbed to find the butts lying right next to a trash bin on the beach. “Tossing a cigarette butt is an automatic gesture. You even see it done in the movies.”

Sunbathers lay down their towels between the crushed and abandoned butts left on the beach by careless smokers. These small pieces of cellulose acetate – plastic in fiber form – are excellent travellers. A cigarette butt thrown on the ground in the city will float in water washing the sidewalks, flow into the road, and finally end up on a beach, as they do here, arriving via a rain water spillway. “The butt will then break up into micro-plastics.” Benjamin Van Hoorebeke adds, “The main impact from butts is the toxic substances they contain: nicotine, cyanide, mercury. A single butt discarded in the environment can by itself pollute between 300 and 400 liters of water. On the ledge there, I walked 10 meters and I found 56 butts !” Organizer of this event, Benjamin Van Hoorebeke regrets that smokers who throw cigarettes on the ground often do not even realize they’re polluting.

Each year, 4,300 billion cigarette butts are discarded in the streets – 137,000 per second! – enough for a never-ending trash collection. Surfrider’s campaign to raise awareness is essential. According to Benjamin Van Hoorebeke, “Awareness is the first step toward accountability.” Partner of Tara Mediterranean, Surfrider will be present at the schooner’s stopover in Nice in 10 days. A great opportunity to become consciousness-raisers, and educate the public about the issues of pollution.

Noëlie Pansiot