Researchers May Have Found an Awesome Use for Cigarette Butt Litter

Written by Megan Treacy

Cigarettes are not only bad for your health, they’re also bad for the environment. Used cigarette butts are the most frequently littered item, regularly discarded on sidewalks and out of car windows, making their way into waterways. It’s estimated that about 5.6 million used cigarettes — 766,571 metric tons — are deposited into the environment worldwide each year.

group of South Korean researchers have found a way to not only divert some of those used cigarette butts from ending up in the environment, but also a way to make them into something useful. They’ve found that the cellulose acetate that makes up most of the material in a cigarette butt can easily be changed into a carbon-based material that out-performs common materials used in energy storage devices.

“Our study has shown that used-cigarette filters can be transformed into a high-performing carbon-based material using a simple one step process, which simultaneously offers a green solution to meeting the energy demands of society.

“Numerous countries are developing strict regulations to avoid the trillions of toxic and non-biodegradable used-cigarette filters that are disposed of into the environment each year—our method is just one way of achieving this,” said Professor Jongheop Yi, from Seoul National University.

The researchers were able to transform the cellulose acetate into a carbon-based material with a simple burning technique called pyrolysis. After the technique, the carbon-based material had lots of tiny pores that allowed it to act as a high-performing supercapacitive material.

They then attached the material to an electrode and tested it in a three-electrode system. They found that the material stored a higher amount of electricity than commercially available materials, graphene or carbon nanotubes.

The researchers believe that this new energy storage material could be used to coat the electrodes of supercapacitors to boost their performance or that it could even be integrated into electronics like computers and smartphones, built into wind turbines to store any extra generated energy, or to boost the storage capacity of electric car batteries.

This post originally appeared on TreeHugger.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Warren Webber
Warren Webber3 years ago

Live long and prosper!

Dave C.
David C3 years ago

cool, thanks.....

Sandra I.
Sandra I3 years ago

thanks -- a bit skimpy on the info... but thanks

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa3 years ago

Thank you

BJ J3 years ago

I understood this article to be about researchers finding that material used in cigarette filters might be usable in energy storage devices not a poll on how people feel about smokers. . . . . .

Jane R.
Jane R3 years ago

First of all there should be no cigarette butt litter at all. People who smoke should use ashtrays and dispose of the butts properly.
However if there is a way to use them to our benefit maybe people will recycle them as they do other products and that would be a benefit to our environment.

Michele B.
Michele B3 years ago

finally someone used their sheepskin for an idea that is truly beneficial and has a great application and wonderful possibilities for everyone and everything. Those nasty butts destroy everything they touch,,,animals and enviroment alike.

Rhonda B.
Rhonda B3 years ago


Sarah Ellissa Markey
Sarah Markey3 years ago

I recently transitioned from smoking regular cigarettes to fully quitting with the help of an e-cigarette of for a period of a few months earlier this year. So so glad to be free of it!

Shirley S.
Shirley S3 years ago

A good recycle.