Polish civil engineering student Bogna Haponiuk’s latest creation has a unique tie halfway around the world.
The Warsaw resident has long been passionate about showing people how even their small choices can impact the environment, but it wasn’t until she started learning about cigarette butt waste that a light bulb went off in Haponiuk’s head.
In Poland, Haponiuk read about the Victoria-based cash for butts program and soon created the Cigarette Butts Cleanup Calculator.
“It all started with articles about the impact of plastic straws pollution,” Haponiuk said. “I dug deeper and discovered that actually, the most common trash item on our beaches are not straws, but cigarette butts.”
And they really are at the butt of the waste issue. Two out of three cigarette butts never make their way to an ashtray, and the microplastics in the filter often ends up in oceans or beaches.
“I started reading about various creative solutions local municipalities invent to tackle this problem – for example, about cleanup initiatives. I decided to make a tool that starts a conversation about it,” Haponiuk explained.
Haponiuk’s clean up calculator requires the user to input information about their clean up efforts – including how many people were involved, how much time it took, how frequently the area is cleaned – and spits out information such as how many litres of ocean water was saved from contamination or how many pounds of plastic waste will be prevented from entering beaches thanks to the efforts.
“It’s a perfect example of the snowball effect, where small contributions add up to huge numbers,” Haponiuk said. “For example, by committing to collecting butts just twenty minutes a week, you’ll save 5,000 litres of water in a year.”
She added, “the main problem is, it’s still socially acceptable to throw [butts] to the ground. I hope my tool will make people realize how harmful they are, and lead to measures that heavily punish cigarette butt littering.”