Cigarette butts could soon be used on our streets after Australian researchers discovered that trapping them in asphalt could bring environmental benefits.
Around 1.2Mt of cigarette butts are produced each year, polluting the earth with toxic chemicals. But a research team at RMIT University’s school of engineering has found that cigarette butts, which take many years to biodegrade, could have benefits in road building.
When mixed in with asphalt, the team found that cigarette butts could withstand heavy traffic. They also reduce thermal conductivity in roads and pavements, helping to mitigate the problem of urban heat in cities.
RMIT senior lecturer Abbas Mohajerani, who has previously advocated using cigarette butts in bricks to save energy used in heating houses, described how the team mixed the butts with bitumen and paraffin wax to stop the toxic chemicals leaking out.
“I have been trying for many years to find sustainable and practical methods for solving the problem of cigarette butt pollution,” said Mohajerani.
“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 findings were published in the Construction and Building Materials journal after five years of research.