“It takes twelve to fifteen years before a cigarette butt has disintegrated completely,” says a Peukenzee employee this Thursday morning to a group of students who are on their way to the large green gate at SBE, the smoking place at the School of Business and Economics. “About 90 per cent of a cigarette filter is microplastics. These can end up in nature if people throw them on the ground.”
Peukenzee’s primary objective is to prevent cigarettes from ending up there. They do this by providing information, but today they are also distributing pocket ashtrays. These are small, sealable, plastic tubes that easily fit in your trouser or coat pocket. “When there is no bin in the vicinity, in the forest, on the beach, or just on the street, people can leave their cigarette butts in them to dispose of them later into a bin”, they say. Whether students will use them? “Of course,” a student who has just received one says decidedly.
In the meantime, two other Peukenzee assistants with a pair of tweezers and a bucket are clearing away the butts that are lying on the ground. “These will be recycled,” they say. On the pavement beside the gate, there is a ‘cigarette butt pole’: a see-through cylinder of about a metre high. “Smokers can deposit their butts in there for a while. We will empty it once every so often.”