You see them littered, in the grass, in your flowerpots, on the streets, in the sand at the playground, in the sand at the beach…. everywhere. They are an eyesore, toxic to the environment (start forest fires, small animals ingest them and die, chemicals leach into our water supply) and a daily reminder of how wasteful we can be with even the smallest of objects. What are they? Littered cigarette butts. What’s being done about the litter? Alexandra Guerrero is recycling them into clothing.
Alexandra Guerrero is a Chilean designer who discovered that cigarette butts, if properly cleaned, can be recycled into a wool-like fabric and made into stylish, durable and eco-friendly clothing. According to ButtsOut an estimated 4.3 trillion cigarette butts are discarded around the world each year. So far Guerrero has used about 5,000 cleaned and recycled cigarette butts to design a dress, a vest, a hat a poncho and even some soap. 5,000 recycled cigarette butts isn’t much of an impact compared to the amount littered each year but it is a start and Guerrero does hope to recycle more in the future.
To clean the cigarette butts they are first placed through an autoclaves. Then the cigarette butts are washed in a polar solvent, put back in an autoclaves, rinsed, dried and then shredded. Once cleaned the recycled cigarette fiber is dyed different colors and separated by color. The colored cigarette fibers are then spun together with natural sheep wool. This end fabric is what is used to make the clothing. About 10% of the fabric is recycled cigarette butts. When financially feasible Guerrero hopes to increase the percentage of cigarette butts to wool in the fabric mix.
To make sure the butts were safe enough to use for her project Guerrero consulted environmental engineer Carolina Leiva to conduct a study and determine the safety of this project. According to the study the cleaned cigarette butts are 95% pure, safe enough for use and wear. For more information on this project visit Guerrero’s website.