New tobacco filters sprout seeds when littered

“After all, any business that makes only money, we believe, is a bad business.”

Image credit: Karma Tips

Spend a day walking around nearly any town (or city) and you are sure to spot cigarette butts littering the ground and sidewalks. A new company wants to change that.

Karma Tips, founded by ex-advertising representatives from India, Chetana and Ved Roy, have created biodegradable cigarette filters that plant seeds. So instead of creating litter, the filters will degrade and could possible leave new plants behind. The couple previously worked for several large corporations, including those in the tobacco industry. The idea for karma tips came after a meeting with one of their big tobacco clients.

The filters are handmade, 100% biodegradable and non-addictive. When disposed, the filter (or butt) degrades in a matter of days, leaving behind the potential for a new basil, New Zealand lawn grass, rosemary, or thyme plant.

The filters also do not include any chemicals, unlike the papers sold and used by tobacco companies. As Ved explains, “The paper is manufactured to ‘burn continuously’ and hence, treated with 99 percent of chemicals in the process. So, while we vilify tobacco, the paper gets away scot-free. There was a Hollywood movie, The Insider, made on this subject about how the ‘big tobacco’ company manipulated the chemicals on the paper to make their ‘big brand’ more addictive. The paper contains Butane (lighter fluid), Toluene (industrial solvent), Nicotine (insecticide), Acetic Acid, Methanol (rocket fuel), Acetone, Cadmium, Arsenic, Benzene (Petrol fumes), Ammonia (toilet cleaner), Hexamine, and much more. The slower the paper burns the more you smoke, and that makes it more addictive.”

In addition to an environmentally-friendly finished product, the Roys also provide work for individuals, mostly women, from local villages. Because the packaging for their products are created locally, individuals are able to work to help make, package, and distribute Karma products.

As Ved told Your Story, “The bags that contain the products are handwoven by a community of local weavers, using organic cotton and locally grown raw material. Even the ink we use for printing is food-grade, non-toxic, and made locally. These small initiatives go a long way in involving local and rural communities in the business, thereby helping them prosper.”

According to National Geographic, ”[Cigarette] butts represent the most numerous form of trash that volunteers collect from the world’s beaches on the Ocean Conservancy’s cleanup days.”

Over 4.5 trillion butts litter the planet every year.


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Alexandra Jacobo is a progressive writer, activist, and mother who began her political involvement in earnest passing out blankets to occupiers in Zuccotti Park in 2011. She is concerned with educating the public and inspiring them to take action on progressive issues that promote positive change at home and abroad.