Building roads from cigarette butts

Enviropoles Operations Manager, Chris Holwell, with 68 kg of cigarette butts collected from Melbourne's streets for recycling

Enviropoles Operations Manager, Chris Holwell, with 68 kg of cigarette butts collected from Melbourne's streets for recycling

Cigarette butts are the most littered item in Australia. Recently, RMIT University found a way to deal with the 1.2 million tonne problem that sees the release of toxic chemicals into the environment every year. Their solution? To mix cigarette butts with asphalt and use it in road construction.

The concept, according to lead researcher Dr Abbas Mohajerani, is viable due to the sheer quantity of asphalt concrete produced in Australia each year. The butts are encapsulated and used in the second layer of the paving material, so that their chemicals don’t leech out. Another benefit is that, compared to traditional asphalt, the new asphalt material has lower thermal conductivity, which will help lower atmospheric temperatures.

Another initiative in Melbourne is also dealing with cigarette butts that typically find their way into rivers and oceans via drains. Through a collaboration between the City of Melbourne, Enviropoles and TerraCycle, waste cigarette butts are collected and converted into plastic products like shipping pallets and plastic furniture. The initiative has been modelled on successful ventures in Vancouver and New Orleans.

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