‘Butting in’ for a good cause

Datta is quick to ‘butt in’ that the community is neither anti-smokers nor a solution for recycling cigarette butts, but an effort to fight climate change.
Nirit Datta
Nirit Datta

CHENNAI: When you smoke a cigarette, think of its environmental impact along with the health implications. Nirit Datta, a Kolkata-based environment conservationist, started smoking three years ago only to cut down after realising the damage that cigarette butts do to the environment. This was the trigger to start ButtRush, a pan-India community which is leading the fight against cigarette butt pollution. Datta is coming to Bengaluru on April 28 to meet corporates to raise funds to fuel the drive.

Datta is quick to ‘butt in’ that the community is neither anti-smokers nor a solution for recycling cigarette butts, but an effort to fight climate change. “We work on a 24-hour environmental marathon where our members are on the streets collecting the butts. We manually count them and pack them in containers. So far, we have collected around 4 lakh butts from cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi, among others,” says Datta, who quit his Bengaluru corporate job and took up wildlife conservation to rescue snakes and birds.

Datta believes the campaign is also to fight the tobacco companies and make them realise its impact. The 25-year-old who crowdfunded the campaign says, “These butts are made of cellulose acetate, a hazardous plastic material that is as harmful as plastic pollution. If you put a cigarette butt in a one litre of water with a small fish in it, the fish will die in the next 48 hours. Similarly, it’s polluting the freshwater, marine ecosystem, degrading the soil and is harmful to stray animals who mindlessly consume it.”

In Bengaluru, HSR Layout, Koramangala, Whitefield and surrounding areas make up for the highest rate for butt pollution. “In January this year, we collected around 27,000 butts, out of which 5,000 alone were in HSR Layout. We also went about surveying smokers in India on how the butts are made and only two out of 800 smokers knew the answer. We also collect data on their smoking behaviour, ways of disposal, areas where butts are found in large numbers and much more. We will be doing this in all the Tier-1 cities because this is where most of the pollution emerges,” says Datta.

In thin air

Bengaluru- 27,000 butts (January 2022)

Most Polluted areas: HSR Layout, Koramangala, Whitefield and Electronic City

No. of butts collected across different states: 4 lakh

Highest polluted areas: Corporate offices, engineering colleges, pub areas

No. of volunteers: 288

Total distance covered: 3,000 km on foot

How it works
To volunteer, contact Nirit Datta on Instagram/LinkedIn. The 24-hour marathon collection drive is announced three weeks in advance. The drive is on weekends, starting at 6 am. Members collect butts in different areas. They also collect data on smoking patterns, disposal options, analyse environmental degradation.

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