Port of Tallinn, city of Tallinn and ferry companies join forces to tackle cigarette butt pollution

Today marks the beginning of the cigarette filter pollution awareness campaign. The broader aim of the campaign is to contribute to the cleaner state of the Baltic Sea. The campaign is led by the City of Tallinn and the World Cleanup Day, the main partners are the Port of Tallinn, Tallink, Eckerö Line, Viking Line and Tallinn Airport.

One of the world’s biggest plastic waste problems is caused by cigarette butts that end up in nature and marine ecosystem. Cigarette filters are made of a plastic called cellulose acetate. When tossed into nature, they break down into poisonous microplastic that also poses a threat to human health. The issue of cigarette filters is very much a problem of cities as well – the used filters that end up in stormwater gutters end up in the sea. The problems is that the stormwater systems used do not have any filtration – 50% of the plastic waste in the Baltic Sea is made up of cigarette butts.

The mayor of Tallinn, Mihhail Kõlvart, noted that according to the report of The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM), 80% of the litter ending up in the Baltic Sea comes from the land areas. „It is carried to the sea from the rivers, storm drain systems, wind and the people visiting beaches. It may come as a surprise for many, but the cigarette filters are the most prevalent plastic waste in the Baltic Sea. Moreover, it is the biggest plastic waste issue in the world. One cigarette butt might poison 1000 litres of water and sadly, they are not biodegradable. This type of pollution is a direct threat to human health as well – inevitably, it ends up in the food chain,“ said Kõlvart.

„Although waste sorting is mandatory in Estonia, the wellbeing of nature should be our top priority in itself and that is why we should not forget to recycle. That is one of the very real thing everyone can do in order to make sure that the generations to come get to enjoy the nature as we know it. It should be an inseparable part of our culture – to take everything we bring to nature back with us once we leave, this includes garbage left by others.”

The CEO of the Port of Tallinn, Valdo Kalm, said that each year about 10 million passengers move through the Old Harbour and sadly, there are a lot of cigarette filters and other small forms of litter in the harbour area. The cigarette butts are often thrown directly to the sea from the ships as well. „The cigarette butts tossed on the ground will also sooner or later end up in the sea – either by the wind or the stormwater. We have more than 700 stormwater drains just here, in the Old Harbour premises. Clean Baltic Sea is one of the priorities of the Port of Tallinn and including to partnering with this campaing, we have done other investments as well – the waste that comes to our port from the ships is sent to circular use and soon we will begin with connecting the ships residing here to the shore power system and will will also install automatic mooring devices.“

In order to tackle the cigarette butts’ issue, many activities are planned. The campaign will peak September 19, on the World Cleanup Day 2020 which also focuses on the problem of small piece litter and cigarette filters this year. Find more information at https://www.worldcleanupday.org/.

Tallinn is one of the four finalists still in the competition for the title of the European Green Capital 2022. This year, 18 cities from across Europe ran for the title and Tallinn (EST), Grenoble (FRA), Dijon (FRA) and Turin (ITA) are in the final stage of the award process. The finalists will present their vision of the 2022 programme to the jury on October 8 in Lisbon. More information of Tallinn’s participation can be found at www.tallinn2022.ee.


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