It is a well-known fact that smoking is injurious to health but did you know that cigarettes are the most littered item on Earth? Across the world about 4.5 trillion cigarettes are discarded each year with more than 100 billion cigarettes being dumped, on the streets and elsewhere, in India alone. While most of the cigarette disintegrates when burnt, what’s left behind are the cigarette butts.
These contain filters that are made of a plastic called cellulose acetate which takes years to degrade, and as they do, microplastics are released into the soil and oceans. A recent study found that one cigarette butt in a liter of water kills half the fish. On a mission to combat this pollution two friends from Noida, Naman Gupta, a Delhi University graduate and Vishal Kanet, an engineer, founded Code, a company that recycles cigarette waste into different products.
It was after a party at a friend’s house in 2016 when Vishal and Naman came up with the idea for the startup. Shocked by the amount of cigarette waste that was generated in a few hours, they decided to start recycling cigarette waste. After months of research they came up with a way to clean and process the cellulose acetate of cigarette butts into useful products and in July of the same year they launched Code.
Code distributes VBins to street vendors in which they collect cigarette waste and in turn ensure the vendors a rate of Rs 250 for a kilo of cigarette butts. The waste, mainly ash, tobacco, paper and the filter, is then separated manually. The paper and tobacco are converted into manure and the filters are treated and then made into cushions, toys and mosquito repellents.
Today, Code works in 250 districts across India. Naman says, “In the coming five to ten years we hope we are able to manage cigarette waste from all over India.”
Watch how Code is reducing pollution by turning cigarette waste into plush soft toys.