The campaign “The Sea Starts Here”, aimed at improving the health of Estonian rivers, lakes, and the Baltic Sea, and, above all, raising the environmental awareness of the Estonian people, begins in August of 2020.
In the course of the campaign, a total of nearly 1,000 rainwater manholes will be marked in the fifteen largest cities in Estonia to inform people of the dangers to the environment posed by cigarette filters entering the Baltic Sea along with rainwater.
The marking of manholes is carried out on the basis of the bodies of water near to each city — Pärnu River, Emajõgi River, Pedeli River, Tamula and Viljandi Lakes, and the Baltic Sea.
Discarded cigarette filters are considered to be one of the biggest environmental problems in the world. Smokers’ habit of discarding cigarette filters in nature or in rainwater gutters carries a high environmental risk, which people are often ignorant about. Cigarette filters are mistakenly considered to be biodegradable or to reach a water treatment plant, but in reality they end up carried by rainwater into the nearest body of water.
The filters contain cellulose acetate, a plastic that is not biodegradable. According to research, a plastic filter lasts in nature for at least 10–12 years. Of the approximately six trillion cigarettes smoked each year, the filters of nearly four trillion end up in the wild. According to research by the Ocean Conservancy, there are far more cigarette filters in the world’s seas than any other type of waste.
In Estonia, nearly a billion filters are discarded yearly onto streets and swept on into sewers.
Filtered cigarettes are the most common among smokers, but it is the filter that is the part of the cigarette that causes damage to the environment. In the water, the cigarette filter crumbles into minuscule particles — micro- and nanoplastics — which return to our dinner table, into soil, and all other living environments, as rainwater evaporates from the oceans, seas and other bodies of water.
The environmental hazards of cigarette filters are amplified by the chemical compounds they contain, many of which are toxic and carcinogenic. The most harmful among the many dangerous components in a discarded cigarette filter are nicotine, carbon monoxide, tars, carcinogens and heavy metal salts. Lead in filters is a heavy metal that accumulates in organisms, while arsenic compounds are directly lethal.
Animals and birds are indiscriminate eaters: they cannot tell the difference between food and plastic waste. Plastic waste products, including plastic filters are indigestible for marine animals, and the debris trapped in their gastrointestinal tracts can cause slow death through suffocation.
In addition, the nicotine from cigarette filters that have been soaking in an aqueous medium can cause neurological damage and developmental abnormalities in aquatic animals.
Repeated studies have shown that the chemical compounds in cigarettes include more than 50 carcinogens that can cause acute poisoning or subsequent mortality in freshwater invertebrates.
The NGO “Sunday Cleanup with a Picnic” is a newly established environmental protection group that organizes events combining cleanups with picnics. During the cleanups organized in 2019, it became increasingly clear that the nature of our waste is based on addiction, and in addition to organizing campaigns it is necessary to focus on understanding the causes of addiction, recovery and environmental education.
In addition to Sunday cleanup attenders, we recognize all past and future team members, all environmental groups and, above all, the Estonian World Cleanup Day team. The 2019 World Cleanup Day was attended by 24,000 Estonian schoolchildren who collected nearly a million cigarette butts in a single day.
Our environment is constantly changing. When we understand our connection to everything around us, it gives us the opportunity to create changes that are positive. Changing our behavior is essential, and everyman’s conservation of nature is a priority.
The NGO “Sunday Cleanup with a Picnic” invites people to join various cleanup campaigns, to clean their streets and beaches, inform their loved ones and the citizens who are displacing their cigarette butts about the environmental impacts of doing so.
Increasingly worsening environmental problems have begun to shatter the illusion that man stands apart from nature, or that a single individual plays no part in the bigger picture. The growing number of environmental organizations is proof that a worthwhile idea can grow into a global movement that contributes to the well-being of us all. The campaign “The Sea Starts Here”, which began in a small town in France and has reached many European countries, proves that small ideas can have great impact.
Recognizing good ideas and figuring out what you can do to help our unique, living and wonderful planet are your personal choices.
If you can’t find any “The Sea Starts Here” signs in your city, contact your local government or send us an e-mail:
MTÜ Pühapäevane prügikoristus piknikuga
telefon: +372 523 1199