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Indian brothers aim to recycle 35 billion cigarette butts into products

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Oct 07, 2022 - 10:32 AM

NEW DELHI (AA) – In 2018, when brothers Naman and Vipul Gupta began working on an idea to recycle cigarette butts, little did they know that in the coming years, they would be lauded for turning millions of them into day-to-day products.

In the last four years, 28-year-old Naman, who along with his older brother Vipul runs a firm called Code Effort on the outskirts of India’s capital, New Delhi, says they have recycled over 300 million cigarette butts collected from the streets and have transformed them into a number of products, including stationery and home decor items and toys.

“When we started it with three cities (New Delhi, Gurugram, and Noida) in 2018 and in 2019, we started receiving good responses from all over the nation,” Naman told Anadolu Agency.

“Initially, we were starting with 10-20 grams per day of cigarette waste. Four years later, we have reached over 1,000 kg (1 ton) per day. If we talk about cigarette butts, it is 3.5 million a day.”

He said as cigarette butts have hazardous environmental impacts, the company is working with three goals in mind.

“First, definitely, cigarette butts are damaging the environment. By recycling (them), we are contributing towards saving the environment,” Naman said, adding they are also generating a livelihood for many people who are employees of the firm.

He said the company is also helping people quit smoking one cigarette at a time through rehabilitation centers and collaboration with various groups.

The World Health Organization notes that India is the world’s second-largest consumer and producer of tobacco, which is one of the “major causes of death and disease in India and accounts for nearly 1.35 million deaths every year.”

At present, in India, there are no specific guidelines or regulations available for appropriate cigarette waste management and recycling, according to Code Effort.

According to Naman, they are recycling each part of a cigarette butt, which has three components: Fiber, paper, and tobacco.

“From the tobacco, we convert it into compost powder. The paper is converted into a pulp and turned into burnable mosquito repellant which is used during the summer,” he said.

“We recently launched more products — diaries, notepads, envelopes, and other items. We have also started launching carry bags, for which we are seeing a good response.”

Naman noted that the third part is fiber, which is a cotton-type material, and it goes through various processes which result in the material being used in soft toys, quilts, pillows, and other products.

According to the firm’s officials, anybody can volunteer and send or donate their cigarette butts for recycling.

“We engage with more than 2,000 rag-pickers across India to collect cigarette butts,” the company says. “We have created a business model wherein the associates (through a current network of more than 250 districts in India) get money for their supplies.”

Stating that their future goal is now to increase the volume of recycling of waste, Naman said they plan to recycle 300-400 tons monthly by 2025, which is around 5%-6% of the total cigarette butts generated annually in India.

“By 2026, our goal is to reach the target of recycling at least 35 billion cigarette butts,” he added.

Implementation of existing laws

While the Gupta brothers are working towards recycling cigarette waste, experts in India say there is a need to implement the existing policies for tobacco control in the country.

“We already have policies to combat the use of tobacco. The need of the hour is to ensure implementation of our policies,” Dr. Rakesh Gupta, the president and director of public health at the Strategic Institute for Public Health Education and Research in northern India, told Anadolu Agency.

He also said the country should raise taxes on all tobacco products uniformly, monitor tobacco use and prevention policies, and enforce a ban on tobacco advertising, which would help reduce the prevalence of tobacco use in India.

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