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Cigarette butts on the road to redemption?

Australia – Cigarette butts are a nuisance in many areas, including beaches and alongside busy roads. But a new recycling solution pioneered by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’€™s School of Engineering in Australia is claimed to transform carelessly-discarded butts into a construction material.

Approximately 1.2 million tonnes of cigarette butt waste is generated around the world every year, according to Dr Abbas Mohajerani who ran RMIT’s five-year cigarette recycling research project.

He reports that his team has successfully mixed cigarette waste into asphalt, encapsulating the butts with bitumen and paraffin wax to lock in the chemicals and prevent any leaching from the asphalt concrete.

‘The encapsulated cigarette butts were mixed with hot asphalt mix for making samples,’ Mohajerani explains. The resulting material can handle ‘heavy traffic’ and can also reduce thermal conductivity. ‘Encapsulated cigarette butts developed in this research will be a new construction material which can be used in different applications and lightweight composite products,’ the senior lecturer and civil engineer points out.

In his view, such a breakthrough cannot come soon enough. Mohanjerani estimates that, based on world population growth, the volume of cigarette waste could increase by as much as 50% by the year 2050.

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