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Environmentalists call cigarette butts a "secret threat" to our waterways

Posted: 5:00 PM, Jan 31, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-31 22:49:58Z
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JUPITER, Fla. — Plastic straws and bags are getting more attention these days because of their impact to our paradise. But what about cigarette butts?

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Environmentalists say filters from cigarettes are the most littered item on our beaches.

Mark Holbert is with Friends of Jupiter Beach, a non-profit organization that aims to clean our beaches. He says cigarette butts are one of most common items they clean up in the Jupiter area.

"Easily over a hundred," said Holbert, referencing how many he picks up every cleanup session.

He’s not sure what the impacts are, but he knows it can’t be good.

"Frustrating to see the damage done," said Holbert.

Microbiologist Tracy Mincer at Florida Atlantic University studies plastics in our waterways. He says cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate, a type of plastic.

"Cellulose acetate was one of the most abundant types of plastic fibers that we found in marine snow," said Mincer.

But it's not just filters on beaches. Cigarette butts can get in our drains, which ultimately leads to our waterways. The question is, what are the eventual impacts to marine life?

"Can’t answer the direct threat right now, but we want to address that," said Mincer.

There are some efforts to reverse cigarette butt pollution. A Sarasota lawmaker filed a bill that bans smoking on beaches in Florida. It’s unclear what kind of support the legislation will get.

READ THE SMOKING BAN BILL HERE

"Beach cleanups really matter and keeping plastic out of the ocean really, really matters," said Mincer.

"Make sure you leave no footprint behind when you come visit the beaches," said Holbert, who will continue to clean up in the weeks to come. "That’s a good start."