Cigarette butts may have a new destiny: upcycling.
New York company EcoTech Displays collects the used, trashed filters from hundreds of ashtrays it has set up outside the city’s bars and restaurants, then carefully stores them in a Staten Island warehouse.
The goal is have a supply on hand when scientists determine an economical way to recycle the butts, which include plastic filters that don’t readily break down and can pollute waterways. Possible future uses include building insulation and protective coating on steel rigs.
“It’s our mission to make sure they don’t go into the landfill and don’t go into the water stream,” EcoTech’s spokesman Larry Dell told the NY Daily News.
New Yorkers alone smoke 10 million cigarettes a day, resulting in about two tons of butts destined for the landfill, according to city estimates.
But given New York’s recent ban on smoking in public places, signed by Mayor Bloomberg last month, there may be fewer butts to collect. Effective in May, the law will fine those caught smoking to a $50 fee.
In fact New York smokers have it tough all around these days. As of July, the state now has the nation’s highest cigarette taxes, hiking up the per price per pack to $14.50 in some New York stores. Consumers report driving across state borders to stock up.