Cigarette Butts and the Impact on the Mediterranean Environment

The Mediterranean Sea is a beautiful water body located in the heart of the Mediterranean basin and is virtually completely surrounded by land mass. This sea plays a vital role in not only the environmental and geographical aspect of the Mediterranean however also the economical. Tourists travel from all across the globe to visit the stunning environment that the Mediterranean basin has to offer. In 2019 the Mediterranean saw roughly 304 million arrivals from countries outside of the Mediterranean basin. With tourism rates this high there are bound to be multiple negative environmental impacts in the region.

I grew up on a small island roughly 120 miles east from the coast of Barcelona – in the heart of the Mediterranean sea, where tourism accounts for more than 75% of the total economic output. I was truly able to witness first hand the damages we as a human species do to this planet for the benefit of an economy. 

This beautiful island naturally became a tourist hotspot for many people in European countries. As they can get on a 2hr plane ride, live in paradise for a week or two, and then return to their home country with no regard for their ecological footprint. 

As a resident of the island and a lover of the sea I took it as my responsibility to volunteer for multiple beach clean ups. During these beach clean ups it would be a team of as many people as we could gather, and we would work in groups of 5-6 zoning off specific areas of the beach where different teams would work at collecting all types of plastic. The plastic was then given to another group which would audit what different types of plastic were collected and categorized into groups for proper recycling.

 When I participated in these clean ups, I noticed that the most common pollutant I would see were plastic cigarette butts. These butts may be tiny and go unnoticed in the sand however they contain hundreds of toxic chemicals and are primarily made of cellulose acetate, a man-made plastic material. The cellulose acetate acts as a filter for nicotine, multiple heavy metals such as but not exclusively, lead, mercury and nickel and many toxins, including formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide and ammonia. So when a person smokes a cigarette they are trapping these toxins in the filter and then throwing them to sit there and leach into the sand or water, causing detrimental damage to the environment and animal populations. 

Finding out these impacts that the cigarette tips had on the ecosystem I questioned why there were so many of them and why so many ended up on our beaches and in our water rather than in the garbage. From a National Geographic study an estimated third of all cigarettes make it to the trash, that means 2 out of 3 cigarettes get flicked away. I then found that on a global scale an estimated 1.69 billion pounds of cigarette filters wound up as toxic waste in our environment. To put this into comparison I calculated how many lbs of plastic straws were thrown away in a year and it is astonishing how much greater the amount of cigarette butt waste is. A rough 160 million lbs of plastic straws are thrown away each year this does not even contribute ⅕ of the amount of cigarette waste in a year. So why are we constantly told to avoid plastic straws but no action has been taken to reduce the amount of cigarette waste? I believe that there are bigger elements at work here, greenwashing the population for their own companies’ financial benefit. 


Riding The Wave

I have always loved the ocean and have surfed almost my whole life. So keeping it clean is my main focus. The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit that does just that. I have been a part of this foundation for a while now. My dad was the first one to show it to me because we have surfed together forever so he thought it would get my attention seeing how I am into a greener healthier earth. Their website has many different categories. When first going onto their website they give you their daily news update. Todays news is about a major oil spill thats had been cast off Orange County and then it gives you the option to read more or donate to help clean it up. This off the bat shoes how much they want people to get involved which really interests me. I love to be apart of something that you know is actually trying their hardest to make an impact on our generation. This foundation fights for plastic pollution, which I will get into soon enough, ocean protection, beach access, coastal preservation, and lastly clean water. These all are of the same importance of course but I think that focusing on plastic pollution can help al lot of their problems.

I know This foundation focuses on many qualities of life, but plastic pollution is their big portion of it. They give you many facts to inform you on how much plastic goes to waste, big contributors, and how others can get involved to help clean up. Their website is full of details on anything you would want to know about plastic waste especially in the ocean.

Over 11 million tons of plastic fill the ocean to this day. But this foundation has done a lot to help work for a better cause. They have been taking on plastic waste for over a decade and have 2k beach cleanups to this date. Out of those cleanups, they have cleaned up 650,000 pounds of trash. This also couldn’t have been possible without all their volunteers. They have had about 100,000 volunteers getting involved to help clean these beaches so none of this could have been possible without them. They have put in tons of effort and encourage people to donate or volunteer whenever possible. Their website makes this easy too. If you need to donate there is a button on their page that gives you easy access and if wanting to volunteer, you can find any place close to you and do a beach cleanup for the day. Their website also does offer clothes and accessories that show your support and spread awareness to others. And another plus to buying these promotional shirts and things is that all their money from this goes to help protect the oceans and beaches. They have reached to very broad audiences, so it is a very popular nonprofit foundation. If you ever want to get involved just check out their website and start to help keep our earth clean and healthy.

A Step Forward


Plastics are an everlasting problem on our earth. They pollute environments, kill animals, and the production for plastics themselves are very harmful. Throughout the United States, governments and regular people have been trying to make progress to cleaning up the earth and stopping the use of single use plastics. Although there does not seem to be like much progress has been done, there were two bills just approved in California, that now need to approved by Governor Gavin Newsom, that are monumental for the reduction of single-use plastics. These two bills are briefly talked about in an article written by the plastic and ocean cleanup organization, Oceana.

The first bill is Assembly Bill 962. This bill is step forward for reusable bottles in California and hopefully getting rid of single-use plastic bottles. This bills main point is that instead of requiring that glass single-use bottles be crushed for recycling, that they can instead be preserved, washed, and refilled. This will help to reduce glass waste and also allow for more jobs to be provided in California. The urging for people to use reusable glass bottles may also reduce the amount of single use plastics throughout the state. Stated in the same article by Oceana, a 20% increase in use of refillable beverage bottles in place of single-use plastic bottles could keep up to 13.5 billion plastic bottles out of the ocean every year. This would be a huge leap forward in the reduction of plastics use and could also help to kickstart other states to do the same.

The second bill that is trying to be passed is Assembly Bill 1276. This bill focuses on the use of single-use plastic utensils. These utensils, such as forks, spoons, and knives are commonly on the top ten items found at beach cleanups and are often not wanted by the customers ordering the food. This bill is trying to be passed to stop this. The bill proposes that plastic forks, spoons, knives, straws, and condiment packets only be provided to the customer if the specifically request for the items. This would allow for a great step towards reducing the majority of single-use plastics that are most commonly used. Many people do not use nor want the utensils anyways, so the utensils are thrown out without second thought. This bill would help to greatly eliminate this.

This article was written to inform the general public about what is going on in the world. Mainly targeting the Californian citizens, this article was written to push the agenda of reducing single-use plastics throughout the state and throughout the world. This is not a bad agenda though, and hopefully more people around the world will become more aware of their consumption and also push their governments to pass similar bills. Although these bills are not worldwide, they provided a positive outlook and some hope to the people who are following and supporting the banning of single use plastics. With more support and sharing of information like this, we may be able to start a more common movement to help make the earth healthier and clean our environment from plastics.


OUR Plastic Ocean

I watched a documentary on Netflix titled, “A Plastic Ocean.” It is a Netflix Original film directed by the Australian journalist Craig Leeson. In this documentary, Craig Lesson set out on a journey to to film proof of a solid mass of plastic waste in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; however, he and his partner, Tanya Streeter, realized that their footage was a lot less solid and a whole lot more micro.

A Plastic Ocean | Netflix

At the beginning of filming, Leeson and Streeter believed that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to be a solid heap of waste. They soon discovered that it is mostly made up of microplastics. Microplastics are just small broken down pieces of plastic that may have been solid at one point. They can be much more dangerous than large plastic waste items because fish, whales, and other marine organisms often mistake them for food. In turn, dolphins, sharks, seals, and other marine predators digest prey that is full of extremely toxic contaminants.

In the filming of this documentary, clips of beautiful and vibrant marine ecosystems are coupled with contrast footage of heavily polluted cities and waterways. This sends viewers the message that our plastic waste is destroying our environment as well as the many environments of our fellow animals. “A Plastic Ocean” also reflects on the inequalities of society and how those inequalities affect pollution in developing countries.

A Plastic Ocean: a film review | - | LearnEnglish

Throughout the documentary, Leeson and Streeter travel to different Gyres across the Earth’s five oceans to film the devastating affects of plastic pollution. They are joined by many world experts on pollution in the gyres, including Dr. Bonnie Monteleone, who joined them in their expedition to the South Pacific Gyre. Along with the team, she collected numerous plastic samples from the South Pacific to quantify the growth of plastic marine debris compared to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Ocean conservation starts at home - Lumina News

Many of the people involved in this documentary are marine conservationists, marine biologists, or marine conservation filmmakers. Therefore, their message is undeniably biased toward protecting marine life and getting rid of plastic. Bias is often seen as having a negative impact when trying to convey a message, but in this instance I believe that their bias allows them to be much more knowledgable. They attempt to study their opinions and biases in a scientific manner instead of basing their message on ideas alone.

This film opened my eyes to the truth within plastic pollution and the immense impact it has had and is continuing to have on Earth. The quantity of plastic that floats on top of the ocean is nearly immeasurable and the effect it has is the same. As an inhabitant of earth, I hope that more people watch documentaries such as these and reflect on their own negative earthly impacts.

Green Business Feature: Next Four Co.

For my blog, I reached out to a business to learn about its sustainability efforts. I fortunately got the pleasure to chat with a sophomore at College of Charleston named Evie Purcell who has been running her business Next Four Co since March of 2020. Evie Purcell started her business when she saw people trying to make college gear and simply thought that she could do it better. Her company started small with simple shirts, press-on letters, and the audience of her friends. She created an Instagram account and started to gain local interest during quarantine. As Next Four Co started to grow, Evie was able to invest in better equipment along with creating new designs from photoshop. Evie says that growing her business in the early stages was hard work and a lot of trial and error. From the jump, Next Four Co makes items to order which is one of the ways that her company has been able to stay sustainable. This essentially means that Evie won’t make items unless she knows that they will be bought. This leaves zero room for overproduction or clothing waste. Next Four Co almost never uses plastic packaging for their orders. The majority of the time, Evie is able to hand the orders directly to the customer which doesn’t involve any packaging. If packaging is needed, Evie likes to use reusable paper bags or brown paper lunch bags. Next Four Co also orders out of the United States for their materials to continue to push efforts of keeping transportation emissions low and the company sustainable.

More recently, Next Four Co has started making strides to become even more sustainable. Evie says that after having conversations with her roommate and friends from home she realized that she should broaden her business to create options for people who prefer to buy sustainably. For her sustainability initiative, instead of buying shirts from a big company, Evie goes to thrift stores and picks out second-hand clothing items to transform into Next Four Co gear. Although this does add extra time and effort into the production process, Evie says that she finds thrifting fun and rewarding. 

Next Four Co has been inspired by big companies such as Billabong and Patagonia. Billabong uses recycled material for some of its wetsuits and bathing suits. Evie is working on replicating this process by using the thrifted items to create new Next Four Co products. Patagonia has a lifetime guarantee and is willing to revamp clothing if the product’s condition wears down. Although Evie doesn’t exactly have the ability to revamp worn-down Next Four Co items, she has talked to some of her customers and has heard things like “I will be wearing this in the retirement home”. So even though Evie can’t provide a lifetime guarantee, she knows that people will be getting tons of use out of her products which is one of the most sustainable actions someone can do with clothing. 

It was truly an honor to talk to Evie Purcells about her journey of creating her brand. I came out of this conversation very inspired to support local and small businesses and continue to improve my sustainability efforts. It was especially impressive to see someone basically the same age as me pursue a passion while still putting the environment first. If you have any interest in supporting Evie and her company, direct message on Instagram to make an order! Below is a picture of Evie wearing one of her products, along with another example of the type of apparel she can make!

Wave of Waste

This piece of art really stuck out to me.  I think it says so much and it is disgusting but also fascinating to look at.  I read into this piece of art and it amazes me.  This piece was created by beer brand Corona and charity Parley for the Oceans collaborated  to create this  piece.  It’s called Wave Of Waste.  As I continued  to read into this I realized how much work needed to be done to create this.  But, as I continued reading, I saw that all the plastic was collected from one area.  “The plastic wave was made using beach litter collected by The Marine Conservation Society from Holywell beach, East Sussex.” 

This artwork included a picture of a famous Australian actor, Chris Hemsworth.  He is surfing the “Wave of Plastic” as you can see in the background of this art work.  Another critic says how it’s impossible nowadays to go to a beach and surf without seeing plastic.  It’s very upsetting that all these beaches have so much trash on it that you can make a whole sculpture out of it.  “The total weight was 1,200kg of plastic – the amount of marine plastic pollution found on the beach every two miles in the UK.”   That is equivalent to 2645.5 pounds.  That is mindblowing that all that plastic is in one piece of art. Plastic Is Killing Our Oceans - Here's What You Need to Know - The Surfers  View

The journey nd life of a Medicine Bottle

As we are all well aware we have a lot of plastic items in our life that we deem as important to us and upon reflection and after watching the journey of a plastic bag in class I have found one of my most important plastic items I use daily is my medicine bottles I looked at all the ones I have and I saw a wide range of different types of plastic. Before I looked I believed that they would all be the same numbers for recycling and thinking this I when recycling I would put them all in the same bin but seeing this today It has taught me something new. When researching bottles similar to the ones I have I found a site where there are all types of plastic medicine bottles and it tells how they are made and after reviewing the different types of plastics I believe the plastic that is used for making medicine bottles is Polyethylene terephthalate or PET it is a hard plastic that is recyclable. This type of plastic is made in factories and is only touched by machines and only uses good raw materials to form their bottles. They then pack their bottles into sterile bags and box them and send them off for shipping. They mark on their website how long it should take them to make the order and it usually ranges from30-45 day unless there are specific time the costumer needs them.


“pills” by plasticrevolver is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The usage depends on what is put into the container and how many. It also depends on how often you use what is in the container. For me a medicine container would last 60 days and I use the container everyday. Now that I am in college I will be recycling differently I will use the recycling bin down stairs that are for specific small plastic containers and hope it will be disposed of properly. At the end of its functional cycle it will depend on the person using it I already said what I would do but for others that depends entirely in them. Some may chose to throw it in with the trash others may chose to find a recycling center that the number of plastic and throw it away there so it can be reused. The environmental impact of this product during the stages of development is putting out toxic chemicals in the air when using the machines to make the plastic after its use if not disposed of properly it can damage the environment through animals eating it to it being in places it shouldn’t be and not going away.

21/365 - western medicine

“21/365 – western medicine” by jypsygen is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The social impact it has is the people who get the raw materials and their working conditions, the people who work in the factories to make sure the machines are working right and them being exposed to harmful chemicals, the people who stock them in stores and are payed not enough for the work they do, and they people who will be impacted by this product if it is not disposed of properly. This would be called the economic snapshot. Way that we can reduce this is by voting with our wallets , selecting our majors that support our ideas. My assumption based on todays world is that the youth will start the change and will enforce sustainable products throughout generations. I can always be wrong and the people who believe our world is fine how it is could take control and further damage our world causing a number of catastrophic events to occur.\


Group, Foerhao. “HDPE Pharma Bottle.” Foerhao Pharmaceutical Packaging Co., Ltd., 2011,

“What Materials Make up Plastic Bottles.” MJS Packaging Blog, 30 Sept. 2014,

Green Business Feature: MOM’s Organic Market

Recycling rules are different everywhere, and the rules can be constantly changing. Some states and counties collect certain items, whereas others will not take it. For example, in my hometown, Fairfax, Virginia, the county does not take glass items in single stream recycling. This is because glass is heavy and it costs more to transport it. This leads to issues with recycling further down the line, because there is a surplus of glass items that have nowhere to go. For this blog entry, I decided to talk about a company located in my hometown, called “MOM’s Organic Market”. I chose this business because I worked there for about a year, and I was involved in investigating and restoring environmental issues. Their purpose is to protect and restore the environment and one of the ways they do this is through a recycling program called the “Recycle Center”. 

The idea was created by an individual who worked for the company and it has been implemented in every single one of their stores across the east coast. The Recycling Center is a wooden container with different labeled compartments that correspond with unique types of recyclable items. Since being implemented, MOM’s has recycled hundreds of tons of compost, holiday lights, natural cork, and more. A unique aspect of the company is that some locations accept items that their corresponding counties do not accept. For example, the Alexandria, Virginia location participated in a drive with The Purple Glass Bin Project. This organization collects and crushes glass (which turns to sand and gravel) in Northern Virginia, as many counties in Northern Virginia do not accept glass. Together, they recycled 822,520 pounds of glass and raised awareness throughout the state on this issue. 

MOM's Organic Market evolves as it expands to 19th location | Supermarket News

How the Recycling Center works is: you enter any of the locations along the east coast and ask where the Center is located in the store. There is no charge whatsoever to drop off recyclable goods, and you do not have to be a customer to drop off items. You then toss whatever items are recyclable, and you leave! It’s as easy as that. If you have questions about recycling, all of the employees are knowledgeable on the topic and can locate a place or organization that would take particular items. One item they do not accept is plastic grocery bags, because most places in Northern Virginia that do accept them as recycling tend to incinerate the bags, causing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. The company does not “greenwash” their sustainability goals, as the entire purpose of the business is to protect and restore the environment. The owner and founder of MOM’s is named Scott Nash and he made the business as a grocery store to pay for the real mission, which is fixing the state of the environment. The company does not provide plastic bags to customers, and they also only use solar and wind power for energy sources. This company is truly a “green” business that gives back to the planet, and their employees.   


“Glass.” Fairfax County Virginia, 

Hamstra, Mark. “Mom’s Organic Market Evolves as It Expands to 19th Location.” Supermarket News, 5 June 2018, 

“Our Purpose Is to Protect and Restore the Environment.” MOM’s Organic Market, 

Product Life of Feminine Hygiene

As a consumer, one of the hardest products for me to find plastic free alternatives is feminine hygiene products. This product is a necessity to me, and many others. Women in the United States alone spend around 2.8 billion dollars on femine products. Firstly, let me explain how tampons were created. It dates all the way back to Cleopatra, using natural products rolled into the tampon shape. Women created their own out of their living rooms, using cloth materials. In 1933, the first applicator was created, made completely out of cardboard. It became a patented product and became a household staple. Soon the tampons and applicators were changed. The cardboard was switched to a plastic material. 

Tampons today are made of a mixture of cotton and rayon. Rayon is a fiber that comes from cellulose, created from wood. Rayon alone takes 250 megajoules to produce 2.2 kilograms. This blend of fibers goes through a rigorous process to create. Outside of the cotton and rayon layer, a lining of synthetic fibers surround the interior. The string is connected inside of the tampon which allows you to take it out. This string is also made of a synthetic material blend. The tampon is then enclosed in a synthetic plastic applicator. Once the tampon is done in production, it is then placed inside of a plastic wrapper. These items are used once and disposed of. 


In the first step of production, cotton is produced. The production of cotton is not sustainable. It takes high amounts of water and energy to farm. Oftentimes, causing the farmers to work in unsafe conditions. The rayon is created using toxic chemicals and is then strung into fibers. The packaging process is extremely harmful to the environment. The plastic is created using raw materials and fossil fuels. These production plants fill the air with high amounts of dangerous emissions. They are then shipped out to different stores. They have different methods of transportation such as trucks, ships, trains, and airplanes. All of these methods damage the environment. 

On average, women use 240 tampons a year. Menstrual products are considered to be medical waste so it is hard to track how much ends in landfills. Experts guess that there are around 20 billion sitting in the landfills. Sadly, the lack of oxygen in landfills makes it extremely difficult for this product to decompose. The fibers are very dense, and while in production, they go through a process that leads to the fibers being bleached. This process of bleaching adds more time in the decomposition process. It takes around 500 years for them to fully decompose, including the applicator and wrapper. 

Unfortunately, it is hard to reduce the impacts of this product. They are not recyclable once they are used due to the fact that they are contaminated. There are many other options if you want to cut down on your plastic waste. Most tampons will still contain an amount of plastic, but cardboard applicators are a great alternative. They are wrapped in a paper wrapper instead of plastic.  


These are products that are necessities and most people do not realize just how much plastic, energy, and waste goes into each tampon. I hope that in the future these big companies will come out with more eco-friendly options for the consumers.


Life Cycle Assessment of a tupperware

I use tupperwares every day to store food. I like to bake multiple loafs of bread or several servings of pasta. Then freezing individual servings in several tupperwares to eat later on in the week. The containers are durable enough to be microwaved and cleaned in a dishwasher. These properties allow me to reuse the containers for months. But eventually they ware down or break and get thrown away. What happens then? What happened before I started using the tupperware?

File:Tupperware-PP.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

When I think of a tupperware, I think of a see through plastics container with a snap on lid. But the tupperware didn’t begin it’s life as a container, it started as fossil fuels deep in the Earth. Once this oil is transported to a refinery, it is heated up and boiled. One of the many gases produced is propylene. The gas is distilled and then introduced to a catalyst where a plastic powder is made that is converted into pellets. A lot of energy and water is required to distill the gases. Water is converted to steam during the condensation part of distillation. Energy is used to boil the crude oil. Polypropylene is a relatively benign plastic with a clean manufacturing process. But the refining of crude oil releases toxic gases that can cause cancer and other health defects. Refineries are often located in poor areas which are usually populated by minority groups.

Natural PP Pellets | LNS Technologies

The plastic pellets are then shipped to a manufacturing plant. This is done often done by boat, train, or air. If these pellets were to be released during shipping they can cause damage to the environment and the communities that depend on it. The plastic is then injection molded into its desired shape and waiting distribution. Different Brands of tupperwares have different methods of distributing. The brand, “Tupperware”, uses direct selling where products are bought from their online store/catalog and shipped directly to the consumer. This method can use less energy during transportation.

When the tupperware is in my hands the product usually lasts many months, sometimes years. The plastic is very durable, easy to clean, and stores food very well. The way I clean them is a dish washer, which needs lots of water and electricity to run. However, while durable, they will not last forever. And when they are no longer useful, I throw them away. This means they are destined to an incinerator or a landfill.  Either way, the tupperwares will have environmental impacts. During combustion, CO2 will be releases and, depending on the additives or plastic, toxic gases too. CO2 is a greenhouse gas and contributes to global warming and the toxic gases can cause cancer if inhaled. In a landfill, polypropylene is prone to oxidation and easily damaged by UV light. If it were to escape the landfill, the plastic can easily breakdown and release microplastics into the environment.