Kicking butts to the curb

07 August, Washington D.C

Cigarette butts are more than mere litter and now, a team of scientists has found a way to pave over the big problem.
The researchers at the RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, led by Dr Abbas Mohajerani, have demonstrated that asphalt mixed with cigarette butts can handle heavy traffic and also reduce thermal conductivity.

This means the product could not only solve a huge waste problem but would also be useful in reducing the urban heat island effect common in cities.

Mohajerani, who was keen to find solutions to mounting cigarette butt waste, said that in the research, they encapsulated the cigarette butts with bitumen and paraffin wax to lock in the chemicals and prevent any leaching from the asphalt concrete. The encapsulated cigarettes butts were mixed with hot asphalt mix for making samples.

He added, “Encapsulated cigarette butts developed in this research will be a new construction material which can be used in different applications and lightweight composite products.”

According to Mohajerani, this study shows that a new construction material can be created while ridding the environment of a huge waste problem.

About 6 trillion cigarettes are produced every year, leading to more than 1.2 million tonnes of cigarette butt waste. These figures are expected to increase by more than 50 per cent by 2025, mainly due to an increase in world population.

“Cigarette filters are designed to trap hundreds of toxic chemicals and the only ways to control these chemicals are either by effective encapsulation for the production of new lightweight aggregates or by the incorporation in fired clay bricks,” Mohajerani said.

The study appears in the journal Construction and Building Materials.

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