Cigarette butts are the new plastic straws

[Cape Town: 27 January 2021] Over the last five years, the #StopSucking movement has exploded, with a drive to ban the use and production of plastic straws in everyday life. A product that was used for years, without any consideration of its environmental impact, was suddenly Mother Nature’s Public Enemy Number One.

Now, attention is turning to a more deadly villain destroying our oceans: cigarette butts, which, like straws, are made of plastic and are not biodegradable.

A local entrepreneur is heading up the call to educate South Africans on the long-term impact of plastic cigarette butts, which have zero health benefits and which are the most littered item in the world.

“While most of a cigarette is burnt up when smoked, not everything disappears. The filter – or butt – is left behind, with only about a third making it into bins. The rest end up on the street, and then in our oceans. These filters  are made out of mono/cellulose acetate, which, in simple terms, is plastic,” explains Adam van Wyngaarden, CEO of Smokey Treats, which produces the world’s first biodegradable cigarette, and co-founder of Smokers Against Plastic.

“With around 4.5 trillion cigarette butts being littered each year – or two million every minute – these are the biggest source of plastic pollution in the world. The bottom line? Cigarette butts pollute our oceans more than straws. It is the biggest contributor to the plastic pollution problem that we are currently facing,” he continues.

In the past, cigarette companies have defended the use of plastic filters by stating that they are photodegradable. However, this simply means that the sunlight will eventually break the plastic into tiny fibres over a period of 2- 15 years.  This is also known as micro-plastic, which is famous for ending up in the ocean and threatening the survival of marine life.

With 75% of smokers admitting to littering their butts, it comes as no surprise that micro-plastics are found in the stomachs of 30% of turtles and 70% of sea birds.

It is not only the cigarette butts that are harmful to the environment, as cigarettes also contain toxic additives in the smoke. There are over 600 artificial additives sprayed onto the tobacco before it is rolled in chemically bleached cigarette paper. The additives and bleach leave behind toxic residue in the filter after smoking,  which eventually leach out and further poisons the natural environment. Cigarette packaging is no better as it is laminated in plastic and coated in metallic or synthetic ink. To top it all off, the cigarette industry is responsible for 4% of the world’s annual deforestation rate.

The best solution to this problem would be to stop smoking all together, however, it is not always an easy habit to kick. That being said there are small, effective changes that can be made. The first being to avoid flicking cigarette butts on the floor and rather recycling them, while another option is to consider changing to an eco-friendly alternative.

“In 2015, while studying at UCT, we discovered that cigarettes were, essentially, made out of plastic and chemicals. The companies producing these products seemed to not care about the environment, or the health of their customers. This inspired us to create an alternative that would finally offer the 21st century smoker a cigarette that doesn’t destroy our environment,” says van Wyngaarden.

“If you can’t give-up smoking all together, you can take comfort in the fact that there is at least a less-damaging alternative out there,” he ends.

To find out more about the impact of cigarettes on the environment please visit Smokers Against Plastic [END]

For further information, interviews or other enquiries, contact:

Megan Silver

The Friday Street Club

060 602 8689


Woodland Craft Cigarettes, the flagship product of Smokey Treats, is the world’s first 100% biodegradable cigarette. Having launched at the end of 2018 by Davide Scott and Adam van Wyngaarden, Smokey Treats offers consumers an alternative tobacco product which is not harmful to the environment, making them the first cigarette company in history to not contribute to plastic pollution.

This ground breaking product has a biodegradable cigarette filter made from wood-pulp. The tobacco does not contain artificial additives and the cigarette paper isn’t bleached with chlorine or any other harmful chemicals.

It is not only the Woodland cigarette that is eco-friendly, their packaging, which is made from just recycled cardboard and soy ink, is just as impressive. The best part is that after just three months the remainder of the smoked cigarette dissolves completely. Smokey Treats donates one percent of all net profits to reforesting South Africa.


Adam van Wyngaarden and Davide Scott are the co-founders of Smokey Treats, which produces the world’s first biodegradable cigarette, and Smokers Against Plastic.

They have committed their lives to changing the cigarette industry and reducing the devastating impact it has on the environment. Their approach has three main arms:

  1. Raising Awareness

The fastest way to reduce the amount of plastic butts tossed to the floor by smokers, is simply to ensure that consumers learn that cigarette butts are plastic and that they are have a hugely detrimental impact the planet. In this way, smokers will be empowered to make the right decision. The aim is to sway public opinion – by providing the facts – so that eventually, it will not be socially acceptable for smokers to ‘just chuck’ their plastic butt after smoking.

The duo founded an organisation to drive this movement: Smokers Against Plastic. The official launch of Smokers Against Plastic Organisation was marked by a month-long street-pole-poster campaign over the 2020/2021 festive season. These posters covered main arterials in the Western Cape which aimed to raise awareness around the plastic butt problem.

To find out more about the world’s largest litter problem, or to join the cause, visit:

         2. Provide an Eco-friendly alternative

If smokers don’t want to walk around with a pocket full of smelly plastic butts, the logical next step is the provide them with a plastic-free/biodegradable alternative, so that if the butt does end up on the ground it is not the end of the world. The duo founded Smokey Treats in 2015 with this vision – three years later, in December 2019, they finally launched the world’s first eco conscious cigarette product: Woodland Craft Cigarettes.

Now, having survived the cigarette ban, Woodlands is distributed to over 1 000 stores around South Africa, including Spar, Pick ‘n Pay, Engen, Caltex, and BP.

For more information visit:

        3. Change the Law

With the combined might of Smokey Treats and Smokers Against Plastic behind them, they aim to change the legislation governing cigarettes – both at home, in South Africa, and around the world. Realising that it will take significant time to achieve the ultimate goal of an outright ban of the production and sale of plastic cigarettes, the short-to-medium term aim is to urge government to consider the following:

  • Plastic warning label: Where cigarettes contain plastic filters (as all cigarettes do right now), the packaging that it’s sold in must have an additional warning label on it, stating this fact. This defends consumers’ right to information.
  • Green Tax Incentives : Because it is so much more expensive to produce eco cigarettes than normal cigarettes, products that are plastic-free should not be charged the standard excise tax of R17.40 per pack of 20. If green cigarette products were subject to a reduced excise tax (say even R15 per pack), this would incentivise producers to invest in more sustainable (but expensive) materials. In turn, a lower excise tax on green cigarettes would mean that more consumers could afford to buy them – and therefore help solve the plastic crisis facing our planet.
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