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Giving waste a second life

An Indian factory produces soft toys by recycling cigarette filters

Women workers make soft toys using recycled fibre separated from cigarette filter tips at a ...
11 November 2022

From cigarette butts to stuffing for plush toys. It's the idea of a young Indian entrepreneur, whose recycled materials business produces toys and furniture accessories, salvaging the necessary materials from the shredded fibres obtained by separating the filters from the shredded tobacco, with a practical commitment against pollution and greater environmental awareness.

In the first years of the last century, cigarette filters were made primarily of cellulose, whereas today they are made out of a much more resistant substance, cellulose acetate, an artificial fibre whose biodegradability process can be up to 15 years. In 2018, 20-year-old Naman Gupta and his older brother, Vipul, launched a business project in the Noida zone, in Uttar Pradesh, taking into consideration that in India — according to the World Health Organization — nearly 267 million people use tobacco. “We started with 10 grams (of fibre per day) and now we are doing 1,000 kilogrammes”, Naman Gupta explained to Reuters. Cigarette butts, the primary material, are delivered directly to the factory after being collected in various parts of India through initiatives that also involve schools and universities, in which students recover cigarette butts from trash cans or, more often, from the ground, given that only one out of three cigarette butts makes it to the trash can. After being shredded, the filters are cleaned and whitened by workers, who even separate the external layer of the filter from the tobacco, transforming it into recycled paper compost. As Naman said, with the help of his employees and those who collect the filters, “annually we are able to recycle millions of cigarette butts”. A second life for waste which, according to a study published in the “Tobacco Control Journal”, today makes up between 22 and 36 percent of the waste that surrounds us daily.