Cigarette and e-cigarette waste

Cigarette and e-cigarette waste


Cigarette and e-cigarette waste can pollute soil, beaches and waterways. Studies have also shown that cigarette and e-cigarette waste is harmful to wildlife.


  • Cigarette butts cause pollution by being carried, as runoff, to drains and from there to rivers, beaches and oceans.
  • Preliminary studies show that organic compounds (such as nicotine, pesticide residues and metal) seep from cigarette butts into aquatic ecosystems, becoming acutely toxic to fish and microorganisms.
  • In one laboratory study, the chemicals that leached from a single cigarette butt (soaked for 24 hours in a liter of water) released enough toxins to kill 50 percent of the saltwater and freshwater fish exposed to it for 96 hours.
  • Another laboratory study found that cigarette butts can be a source for heavy metal contamination in water, which may harm local organisms.
  • A study of the effects of roadside waste on soil found that patterns of hydrocarbon levels in the soil were similar to those of littered cigarette butts. This indicates that the chemicals in the soil had seeped out of cigarette butts. Some hydrocarbons are carcinogenic.

Cigarette butts cause pollution by being carried, as runoff, to drains and from there to rivers, beaches and oceans.


  • Both the batteries and e-cigarette devices contain hazardous substances such as lead and mercury.
  • Lithium-ion batteries in e-cigarettes have been known to explode and cause fires in garbage trucks and waste management plants if damaged or exposed to extreme heat. According to a California survey, 56% of the fires at waste facilities between 2016-2018 were reported to have been caused by batteries, mostly lithium-ion ones.
  • Incompletely used liquid cartridges and refills contain nicotine salts and heavy metals, which can leach into soil and waterways or be ingested by wildlife.
  • Before lithium-ion batteries can be placed in the trash, they need to be fully discharged and cooled, submerged in cold saltwater for two weeks — covered securely with a lid — and wrapped in newspaper.

E-cigarette manufacturers do not provide guidance to consumers on how to dispose of used devices or pod/cartridge products.

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