Cigarette Butts Are the Number One Source of Ocean Trash

iStock
iStock

The health consequences of smoking have been well-documented, but cigarettes can continue to do harm long after they've been stubbed out. As Business Insider reports, cigarette butts account for the largest source of trash in the world's oceans, outnumbering plastic items like straws and water bottles.

Even with cigarette sales sharply declining in recent years, the amount of litter they produce remains significant. It's difficult to recycle filters and often dangerous to throw them in the trash with flammable materials. With public ashtrays scarcer than they once were, many smokers opt to leave the remains on the ground.

Most filters contain cellulose acetate, a non-biodegradable type of plastic. So instead of breaking down over time, the waste washes into streams, rivers, and, when they're disposed of on beaches, directly into the sea.

The Ocean Conservancy estimates that roughly 60 million cigarette butts have been collected from the ocean since the 1980s. Unlike other waste items that pollute the ocean but often get more attention, including plastic bags and six-pack rings, cigarette filters can inflict serious damage on marine life. They contain many of the same chemicals as full cigarettes, including nicotine, lead, and arsenic.

Some unusual initiatives to clean up cigarette butts have been proposed over the years, including training crows to collect them and using them to pave roads, but real change needs to start with cigarette smokers. Instead of leaving them on the sidewalk, filters should be extinguished and safely stored until there are enough of them to send to a special recycling center that handles difficult-to-recycle materials. TerraCycle will even send you a special recycling receptacle designed for collecting cigarette ashes and filters.

[h/t Business Insider]

Chernobyl Creator Craig Mazin Urges Visitors to Treat the Exclusion Zone With Respect

Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Following the success of the HBO miniseries Chernobyl, one tour company reported that bookings to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone located in Ukraine rose 35 percent. Now, series creator Craig Mazin is imploring the new wave of tourists to be respectful when snapping selfies at Chernobyl, Gizmodo reports.

A 2500-square-kilometer exclusion zone was established around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant shortly after its reactor exploded in 1986 and flooded the area with harmful radiation. The abandoned towns are still too radioactive for people to live there safely, but they have been deemed safe to visit temporarily with the supervision of a guide.

Chernobyl has supported a dark tourism industry for years, but thanks to the miniseries, photographs taken there are gaining new levels of attention online. News of influencers posing for irreverent selfies at the site of the nuclear disaster quickly went viral. Mazin tweeted:

Regardless of why people are visiting the site, being respectful in the presence of tragedy is always a good idea. It's also smart to resist leaving a tour group to snap the perfect selfie in some abandoned building: Tour companies warn that breaking rules and wandering off approved paths can lead to dangerous radiation exposure.

[h/t Gizmodo]

Minnesota Wants to Pay Homeowners to Create Bee-Friendly Lawns

iStock/GoodLifeStudio
iStock/GoodLifeStudio

Bees are an important part of our agriculture, helping to pollinate around 30 percent of all the world's crops. That means humans have a vested interest in protecting bees from insecticides, predation, habitat loss, and other factors that have caused populations to drop worldwide in recent years. In Minnesota, legislators are taking steps to help bees by incentivizing homeowners to plant food sources for the insects on their property, the Star Tribune reports.

The new bill, which was recently approved by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Tim Walz, sets aside a yearly budget of $900,000 to be used to help state residents convert their lawns into bee sanctuaries. The program specifically aims to boost the rusty patched bumblebee, a pollinator native to the Midwest whose population has declined by 87 percent in the past two decades.

When the law goes into effect, homeowners will be able to apply for financial assistance to plant their bee-friendly lawn, with 75 percent of the cost being covered for most projects and up to 90 percent being provided in areas especially suited to rusty patched bees. Approved properties will be planted with "native vegetation and pollinator-friendly forbs and legumes," according to the bill. Small common flowers that many homeowners try to eradicate, such as Dutch white clover and dandelions, are some of the most appealing sources of pollen to bees.

It’s still unclear when Minnesotans will be able to take advantage of the new law. The state's Board of Water and Soil Resources will give grants to local conservation groups, who will distribute funding to individual landowners. The state representative who introduced the bill, Kelly Morrison, has said she hopes the law goes into effect by next spring.

The bee-friendly lawn program is just one way people around the world are taking action to save struggling bee populations. In 2017, the UK announced it would ban pesticides that hurt bees, and in Amsterdam, bees can take refuge at strategically placed "insect hotels."

[h/t Star Tribune]

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