Most cigarette filters are not biodegradable. They are made up of a plastic called cellulose acetate, which can take anywhere from 18 months to 10 years to degrade. The chemicals in these filters have been known to affect wildlife negatively.
Cigarette filters are mainly comprised of celluose acetate. There are some that are made of fiber glass (please don’t smoke these). Cellulose acetate is a polymer that is essentially composed fo cellulose (found in cotton) and acetic acid (the smelly stuff in vinegar).
Cellulose acetate takes a very long time to degrade and it occures to deactylation aka production of acetic acid (smells like vinegar). This can take years depending on the conditions, but cellulose acetate kept in the jungle will degrade much faster than cellulose acetate kept in Antartica.
As for harmful chemicals being released cellulose and acetic acid are not as bad as many plastics. I’d rather see people littering with cellulose based plastics as opposed to olefin based plastics. Cigarette buts will eventually return to nature, but it doesn’t mean people should throw them on the ground.
Nothing particularly harmful is produced when cellulose acetate breaks down. However, cigarette filters are saturated with the harmful compunds present in cigarette smoke. These include tar and nicotine, which ARE harmful to humans and wildlife.
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