Littering: Cigarette stubs and their effect on birds

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Nov 26th, 2003, 08:57 AM
  #1
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Littering: Cigarette stubs and their effect on birds

I don't smoke and I certainly don't litter but found this paragraph from Gavin Bell's 2Somewhere Over The Rainbow" quite eye-opening and thought I'd share it incase anyone here didn't know or found it a useful message to pass on to fellow travellers in the future.

I found out that cigarettes seriously damage the health of birds. Our party included half a dozen noisy Brazilian teenagers, who were smokers. When we arrived at camp, Grant told them to shut up, and warned them not to throw away their fag ends because birds would eat them. The stubs swell to nine times their size in the birds' guts, so they no longer feel hungry and starve to death. 'Happens a lot around bush camps. But you don't see the bodies lying around for long, they are usually taken at night by the hyenas or cats.' By cats, he did not mean the fluffy kind that sit on windowsills.


I have come across smokers who have assumed that cigarette stubs are fairly harmless because they will degrade quickly. Clearly, this is far from the case.
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Nov 26th, 2003, 01:29 PM
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Not to make light of this, but if anyone finds me eating cigarette butts, don't stop me, at least not until I am down to a 32 inch waist!

Personally, I wish that smokers were not allowed to exhale!
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Nov 26th, 2003, 05:19 PM
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Thanks, Kavey, that is eye-opening. Like Rocco, I'm also not a smoker. Happily only once during our safari did we meet a couple who smoked (cigarettes, I think Rocco had an episode with a cigar). Anyway they were considerate and careful not to do it at dinner.
One thing I noted about the bush... it was so clean... no litter.
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Nov 26th, 2003, 09:10 PM
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Clematis,

During my first visit to South Africa/Zimbabwe, I was amazed that during the entire two weeks that I did not sneeze once and my sinuses were completely clear. Usually, I am always congested and suffer from allergies frequently, but in South Africa and Zimbabwe, I felt incredible.

South Luangwa, Zambia, was incredibly beautiful, this year, but the locals needed to burn the roadside brush in order to allow for greater visibility of predators and in order to try to keep the elephants away. While this did not make for the cleanest air, it gave South Luangwa a very mystical feel to it that has me longing to return!
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Nov 27th, 2003, 01:42 AM
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sandi
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Very Interesting - Same reason weddings provide bird seed rather than rice to throw at the happy couple. Bird seed nourishes, while the rice expands and does not do the birds much good.
 
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Nov 27th, 2003, 06:18 AM
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Sandi
I've now seen confetti which dissolves on contact with water, I think this labelled as safe for birds.
But lots of venues explicitly forbid confetti because of how messy it looks after the event and how difficult it would be to clean it up before the next couple and party arrive.
I like the idea of using small bird seed though.
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Nov 27th, 2003, 06:32 AM
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And don't let those balloons get away. Just imagine what they can do to birds. And fishing lines too.
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Nov 28th, 2003, 01:00 PM
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And the plastic rings that hold 6-pack of soda or beer. If they fine their way to waterways (rivers, lakes, ocean) they are terrible for waterfowl. One must remember to cut the rings before disposing of.
 
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Nov 28th, 2003, 01:03 PM
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I don't know why people can't just hold on to their litter till they see a bin! Sad thing is I am now too scared to ask "youth" in London (and I'm saying this as a 32 year old!!) to pick up their litter and throw it away because one gets showered with abuse, spit upon, people are even attacked.

(
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Nov 28th, 2003, 10:18 PM
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Sorry to hear that, Kavey. You would hope that future generations would have learned something. I don't think "recycling" was a word in our parent's vocabulary but now... what's the excuse for anyone not to know?

In the states, bubbles have replaced the tossing of bird seed at weddings (due to clean up I suspect).
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Feb 13th, 2004, 12:19 PM
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I love bubbles... I know people moan about the stain on the clothing but that can be dry cleaned out later - and it doesn't MATTER!

:wide

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Mar 19th, 2005, 01:33 PM
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Came across this by accident (looking for the other post I made recommending the book by Gavin Bell) and thought this might be of interest for newer forum readers.

Even those of us who are conscious of the environment and animals around us might not realise the implications of dropping what we would think of as a biodegradeable cigarette stub on the ground.
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Mar 21st, 2005, 09:40 PM
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I think "biodegradeable" is a relative term. According to the "California Waste Management Bulletin" (and quoted on the Minnesota Dept. of Transportation website), the lifespan of a cigarette butt is 1-5 years.
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Mar 21st, 2005, 10:23 PM
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Personally, I think it would be nice if smokers did not exhale and then ate the cigarette butt when they were done smoking.
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Mar 22nd, 2005, 04:12 AM
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Arthur
That's part of my point.
Cigarettes can be considered to be biodegradeable (though clearly not to the extent of items that break down much more quickly) and, because of that, smokers might feel there is no harm in disgarding their butts outdoors on the ground.
But it's not the only thing to consider. In the period before they degrade the butts can cause untold suffering (and death) to the unfortunate birds who ingest them.
I guess I just want smokers to be aware of this additional facet. I was a smoker once and it certainly never occured to me that discarded butts might actually endanger animals/ birds.
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Mar 22nd, 2005, 11:01 PM
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I agree Kavey, I wasn't criticising your use of the word, although the relative brevity of my post probably made it seem that way.

What I was trying to say was that butts take far longer to biodegrade than most people might think, and there are two results of of that. The ugly sight, and (even more important) more chance that what you describe will occur.
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Mar 23rd, 2005, 01:33 AM
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I used to smoke but never dare throwing
the stubs on the floor at home, or anywhere outside.Not in urban areas, not in the wild...I can't imagine people doing it in the bush and I would guess neither do the majority of smokers travelling around....
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Mar 23rd, 2005, 07:54 AM
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Filter tips take much longer than 1-5 years, at least in the dry desert climate of Arizona (and presumably in East Africa).

Do you suppose we might start a campaign to spread the word that filter tips, when used as a suppository, promote smokers' health? I would be more than happy to tell smokers where they can put their nasty waste products.
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Mar 24th, 2005, 02:57 AM
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Balloo
Unfortunately, in my experience, a vast majority of smokers do indeed discard their cigarette butts onto the ground (when outside) and stub them out with the sole of their shoe.
I've seen this all over the world and the resultant gathering of butts in areas where people congregate often for a smoke break.
Now that I am aware of the additional impact of the filters I let anyone I see discarding their butts outdoors where birds could eat them about the issue.
You'd probably be surprised at how many people think it's not littering to drop butts in this way because of the perception that they won't harm the environment because they will degrade.
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Mar 24th, 2005, 07:14 AM
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Many of the filters get washed into our waterways as well. I used to work for the Chesapeake Bay Program and we had a net at a storm drain into the bay at Baltimore. At any time the net would have thousands of filter butts in it.

I believe something like 4.3 trillion butts are littered every year worldwide.

An aside on birds. When people feed ducks and geese bread this can also cause them to starve to death as they fill up but don't receive the nutriets they need.
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