Butts and batteries: Where do the waste products from smoking and e-cigarettes go and what are the effects?

Project code: MHS147


National Institute for Health Innovation




  1. To describe the methods and measure the extent of disposal of cigarette butts and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarette) into the environment in New Zealand.
  2. To assess the environmental damage and potential health impacts of cigarette butt and e-cigarette disposal
  3. To inform policy with respect to tobacco and e-cigarette waste disposal and the role of both manufacturers and consumers of these products.


Much of the focus on tobacco control has been on mitigating the direct health effects to the smoker as well as the health effects of second-hand smoke exposure.

However, the impacts of tobacco products on the environment from cigarette butts are also of concern.

Increasingly, people are using e-cigarettes as cigarette substitutes.

As well as being a visible nuisance, the discarded cigarette filters and cigarette ends are often made of non-biodegradable plastic. They may leach toxic chemicals. E-cigarettes contain batteries as well as plastics and metals that may also leach into the environment.

As such, they present a significant threat to the environment when thrown away. 

In order to address this problem, strategies are needed, not only to reduce littering and the adverse effects of this litter on the environment but potentially on human health.  


  • Literature searching and review skills
  • field work
  • risk assessment
  • survey data analysis
  • scientific writing for publication.