Skip to main content
  • Sustainable Development
  • Urban Intervention

More than 150 thousand cigarette butts collected from the streets of Aveiro

Between April and June, CleanUp Aveiro organized a series of cigarette butts collections throughout the Region of Aveiro. These actions, which involved close to 1000 participants, resulted in the collection of thousands of cigarette butts that are now on display at Forum Aveiro.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes and 10 seconds

© Helder Berenguer, João Simões

Did you know that, every minute, around 7,000 cigarette filters end up on the ground in Portugal? And that those take anywhere from 18 months to ten years to decompose, releasing thousands of microplastic particles in the process? Yes, cigarette filters (“butts”) are not biodegradable! They are composed of a type of plastic, cellulose acetate, and their composition also contains a "cocktail” of toxic substances: formaldehyde, arsenic, lead, nicotine, copper, and a plethora of pesticides. Once in the environment, they can be mistaken for food by animals, ending up on our plates. Although tiny, “just one butt” is enough to contaminate 1000L of water, the average amount a Portuguese citizen uses in a week. Thus, butts constitute a serious threat to the environment, ecosystems, and human health.

The environmental impact of cigarettes is not limited to their butts. To grow tobacco, 200,000 hectares of forest are deforested each year, with a consumption of around 22 billion tons of water. Tobacco production also causes the release of 84 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, equivalent to one-fifth of the CO2 produced by planes.

Despite the legislation providing heavy fines for those who throw cigarette butts, since 2020 and until May of this year, of the 600 cases brought under the “Law of Butts”, only a mere 162 resulted in fines. Our streets, beaches, and forests continue to be the destination of tons of waste without a change in individual behavior.

To raise awareness towards the  importance of keeping our streets (and the planet) clean, we mobilized the community for various actions to collect butts all over the region of Aveiro. These actions, organized between April and June, together with the Escola Profissional de Aveiro (EPA), had the participation of the schools José Estêvão and Dr. Mário Sacramento, Associação Académica da Universidade de Aveiro, Clã Universitário de Aveiro, Associação BioLiving and Exodus Aveiro Fest. In total, we had the active involvement of 998 participants, having collected 156,665 butts.

To make the entire community aware of the problem of improper disposal of cigarette butts, they were put on display at our “Beatão”, at Forum Aveiro. This structure, built by our partners, S-Vitech and Consórcio EPA-Ferpinta-Herculano, has been in the EPA until now, having received the cigarette butts that were being collected. It will be on display for the next few months, accompanied by an infographic to, we hope, change mindsets and behaviors. The cigarette butts will then be sent to the Rede Biatakí, which will be responsible for their treatment and valorization.

This moment also marks the launch of the CleanUp Aveiro page, which now gathers information on all the activities carried out - a collection of butts and actions to clean up the beaches and Ria of Aveiro.

With all the conditions met, it was with energy and good disposition that all participants focused on collecting the highest number of cigarette butts. Thus, actions were carried out with great enthusiasm and effort, which emphasized the strength of the movement achieved through the unity of people. Together we can build a stronger, more united community. Together we make a difference!

"CleanUp Aveiro" is an Agora Aveiro project organized in collaboration with the Escola Profissional de Aveiro. It counts on Forum Aveiro, Consórcio EPA-Ferpinta-Herculano and JR Mudanças as “Silver Partners”. It had partnerships with the Agrupamento de Escolas José Estêvão, Agrupamento de Escolas Mário Sacramento, Clã Universitário de Aveiro, Associação Académica da Universidade de Aveiro, Rede Biatakí and Associação Bioliving. The project also counts with the support of the Município de Aveiro, the “Voluntariado Jovem para a Natureza e Florestas” program and the Instituto Português do Desporto e Juventude I.P..

Helder Berenguer