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UN partnership aims for microplastics reduction in cigarettes

UN partnership aims for microplastics reduction in cigarettes

A new UN partnership was announced Wednesday to raise awareness about the health and environmental impacts of microplastics in cigarettes butts, the most commonly discarded waste item in the world.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Secretariat of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHOFCTC) launchA social media campaign was launched to highlight the issue.

UNEP’s Clean Seas campaign facilitates the partnership, which is made up of 63 countries that are committed to ending marine plastic pollution.

It combines the experience of both agencies in the policy and health dimensions of tobacco products as well as research and advocacy on plastic pollution.

Mountain of toxic trash

Each cigarette contains more than six billion cigarettes annually. These cigarettes contain filters or butts that are mostly made of microplastics known to be cellulose acetate fibres.

However, cigarette butts not properly disposed off can be broken down by sunlight and moisture. This results in the release of microplastics and other chemicals that can have a negative impact on ecosystem health and services.

More than 766 millions kilogrammes of toxic waste are generated each year by cigarettes butts. They are also the most prevalent plastic litter on beaches, making them more vulnerable to microplastic leakages.

The harmful chemicals in microplastics can cause long-term death in marine life, including birds and fish, as well as in plants and reptiles, if they are ingested.

These microplastics also get into the food chain and can cause serious health problems for humans. This includes changes in genes, brain development, respiration rates, and genetics.

Advocate for change

The social media campaign will target influencers and UNEPs Goodwill Ambassadors.

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It will also feature a political advocacy angle, highlighting a recent European Union directive requiring all tobacco products with plastic filter to be clearly labelled. The goal of the campaign is to encourage people to lobby for similar changes worldwide.

Atif Butt, UNEPs Chief for Public Advocacy, stated that the WHO FCTC Secretariat has the technical expertise to assess the effects of tobacco products on human health and the environment.

We are joining UNEPs and Secretariat of WHO FCTCs expertise under the Clean Seas activation. Our goal is to highlight how our planet’s health is intrinsically tied to our own.

Visit UN NewsFor more information.

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