An eco-warrior has made an impressive amount of money by making toys, keyrings, mosquito repellents, and organic compost from old cigarette butts.
26-year-old Naman Gupta was inspired when he saw a huge pile of cigarettes left after a party, and wondered how many were dumped across the world on a daily basis.
So now he runs a company which installs bins in cities to collect butts, which are then recycled and made into anything from cushions to key rings.
Best of all, he says his company has made over one million dollars since 2016, and he has recycled 300,000,000 cigarette butts—the equivalent of 100,000kg.
Naman, from Uttar Pradesh in India, said: “There was a misconception that it must be made out of cotton, so not everybody notices the problem that it is actually plastic.
“There were no laws or companies who were recycling or managing this kind of waste, it was a completely new concept in India.
“I am passionate, it’s not just about the money, we are doing it to service society and tackle the problem society has and provide the solution.”
Naman was in his third year at Delhi University studying commerce when he decided he wanted to start the first cigarette recycling company in India—CODE Effort.
The then 21-year-old found cigarettes are the most littered object in the world, and the plastic in the filter takes up to 12 years to degrade.
It also forms microplastics in the process, which can inhibit plant growth in soil, and are highly toxic to aquatic life.
Company founder Naman receives up to 6,000kgs of cigarettes every month, which are deposited into waste receptacles called VBins outside street vendors and paan shops.
The vendors receive a fee per kilo of butts they collect.
His factory workers split the butts into three parts—the filter, paper, and leftover tobacco.
The filter—made of a plastic called cellulose acetate—is shredded, chemically treated for 24 hours, and then made into stuffing for cushions, soft toys, and squishy keyrings.
The paper and tobacco are turned into compost which is sold to farmers and growers, or domestic mosquito repellents.
The waste water produced in the process is also re-used, and fabrics used to make the plushies are sourced from local suppliers.
CODE Effort, which stands for Conserving Our Depleting Environment, is currently looking into using cigarette filters to create air purifiers to tackle air pollution.
Smoking in India is such a taboo that he doesn’t always receive support, even with an environmentally-friendly initiative.
Naman said: “There were a lot of critics—the problem of waste as a whole is an underrated topic, not everyone is very keen in discussing climate change and waste management.
“I believe and have faith in God that if you are serving society he will help us overcome all the hurdles and take us to success.”
The entrepreneur hopes to encourage people to curb their consumption of cigarettes as well as dispose of them wisely.
He said: “Our business model is on a mission to eradicate cigarette waste in our society in an environmentally-friendly manner.
“Personally I don’t mind if somebody is smoking, that is their choice, but if they are disposing of it inappropriately then I am a bit concerned and I want to change their habit slowly.
“I want to encourage people to quit smoking and switch to better habits because then the problem of cigarette butts will automatically solved.”