One of the special trash cans for cigarette butts, Source: Tallinn Municipality

Cigarette butts from Tallinn’s beaches find new life as 3D printer material

Cigarette butts from Tallinn’s beaches find new life as 3D printer material

Finally, there is a positive use for cigarettes

Last week, as a way to celebrate Baltic Sea Day, the North Tallinn municipality installed special trash cans where smokers can dispose of their cigarette butts. At first glance, that doesn’t seem groundbreaking, however, it gets intriguing after you find out what that specific litter will be used for – the creation of compostable 3D printing material yarn.

For the time being, this will be a pilot project lasting two months. At its end, it will be evaluated whether cigarette filter pollution on the beach and waters has been reduced.

Cigarette circularity

Cigarette butts are one of the most widespread types of marine litter in the Baltic Sea. Most of the waste found in the sea and coastal areas is, in addition to plastic, composed of butts and cigarette filters, which are toxic and do not biodegrade. One cigarette end can poison up to 1,000 litres of water, and toxins released from it into the water can remain there for up to 10 years, being fatally harmful to aquatic life.

"Every year, almost 80 tons of cigarette filters end up in nature. They do not decompose, and the toxic substances contained in them once again end up in the arc through marine animals and into the human diet. I hope that the special cigarette butt cans will help reduce the generation of this widespread marine litter," said Deputy Mayor Joosep Vimm. 

The locations of the trash cans were selected in cooperation with the North Tallinn administration. The boxes were installed for two months at Stroom beach park, at Katariina quay and fishermen's slip on Pikakar beach, along the new promenade of Kalaranna, along the promenade of Kopli lines, at Lennusadama and at Linnahalli quay, where a cafe with an outdoor terrace will be opened in the near future. A total of 20 trash cans were placed in the urban area.

If the project turns out to be successful, cigarette butt boxes will be purchased in the future and installed more widely in Tallinn's seaside and riverside areas.

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