If the title of this news story has you curious, you’re not alone. We are too.
A London community is studying an innovative technology which may allow for the recycling of discarded cigarette butts into home insulation. The community estimates an average of 4,000 cigarette butts are dropped in the town center daily, then collected during routine street cleanings and sent to the landfill.
Susan Hall of the Harrow Council told the London Evening Standard, “Cigarette butts are unsightly and add to our landfill costs. Harrow is the second best recycler in London with a rate of 44 percent, but any cost-efficient technology that drives that rate up is worth considering.”
The Harrow Council was inspired by the work of Igloo Environmental, a U.K.-based recycling company focusing on turning fiber waste streams, largely cigarette butts, into useful insulation products. The company encourages city councils to recycle the cigarette butts, citing a dramatic reduction in city expenses associated with cigarette litter and landfilling.
The idea is to divert the butts from the landfill through a sterilization and recycling process. The process removes the toxins in an industrial autoclave (typically used to clean medical equipment) sterilizing the cigarette butts. They are then broken down into their paper and fibrous material components and compacted into insulation “pillows.” The insulation pillows are used in homes to decrease energy consumption associated with heat loss.
In the U.K. alone, 30,000 tons of cigarette butts are discarded and landfilled each year from the smoking of 60 billion cigarettes, according to Igloo Environmental. The process could greatly reduce the leachate of toxins associated with rainwater runoff and landfilling, while providing a 100 percent recycled insulation product for home use.