Here’s a surprising fact: 4.5 trillion cigarette butts litter our planet each year. And we’re just now learning how that quick flick of the wrist on a downtown street or out a car window can harm our oceans and wildlife.
Ocean Conservancy, which has mobilized the largest international coastal cleanup for the last 30 years, notes that cigarette butts—not plastic straws, bottles or grocery bags—are the single most littered item on the world’s beaches.
Waste from Cigarette Butts Is Found in 70% of Seabirds and 30% of Turtles
“People might flick their cigarette filters directly onto the beach, but more often, they wash into the oceans from storm drains, streams and rivers where they are easily consumed by wildlife,” said Jenny Flores, a board member with Ocean Conservancy and head of Bank of the West CSR. “Field researchers routinely find butts in the stomachs of dead or sick seabirds, fish, turtles and dolphins.”
Those 4.5 trillion butts have staying power. Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate—a plastic that can take anywhere from 18 months to 10 years to decompose. And, they contain the same carcinogens, nicotine and toxins found in all tobacco products. So, not only do cigarette butts stick around, they are deadly. One study found that a single cigarette butt soaked in a liter of water leached out enough toxins to kill half the fish exposed to it.
Bank of the West is making thoughtful choices about what we finance—and what we don’t. As part of this commitment, we’re ending relationships with big tobacco companies and, instead, offering financing programs that look to leave a cleaner, healthier planet.