Tribune News Service
New Delhi, Oct 13
Focusing attention for the first time on potential environmental and health risks from the leftovers of smoking tobacco products, the National Green Tribunal has directed the Centre to frame guidelines for the disposal of cigarette and bidi butts within three months.
The Tribunal passed the orders recently disposing of an application filed in September 2015 urging regulations for the disposal of cigarette and bidi butts.
The NGT orders came after the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research in its research commissioned during the course of the hearing said studies on cigarette butts had shown only 37.8 per cent degradation in two years in the soil under ambient condition.
“This means cigarette butts will persist in soil for a longer duration. The data is not available on the cigarette butts or cellulose acetate (a major component of cigarette butts) mediated human health risk assessment and toxic responses or the response on micro-flora in the soil.
“The degradation studies under natural environmental conditions and laboratory simulating conditions will be required to conclude the safety and toxicity of cigarette butts to further correlate with human and environmental health risk assessment,” the Toxicology Institute said recommending recycling of cellulose acetate after recovery from the cigarette butts as an immediate solution to the problem until the degradation and safety data are generated.
Taking note of the expert report NGT’s principal bench said, “While tobacco is undoubtedly harmful and the concerned authorities are seized of the remedial action, the Tribunal is mainly concerned with the manner of disposal of cigarette and bidi butts.”
“An expert study has been conducted. We do not find any valid reason to reject the expert report. Accordingly, we direct that the Central Pollution Control Board may lay down guidelines for disposal of cigarette and bidi butts, in the interest of environment, within three months.”
Earlier responding to the notice in the matter, the Ministry of Environment had said cigarette and bidi butts were not yet listed as hazardous in India and cellulose acetate, principal component of the butts, was essentially a biodegradable substance.
The Environment Ministry had however admitted to NGT that the biodegradability of cellulose acetate was not necessarily satisfactory in practice.
The Tribunal had then directed the CPCB to Commission an expert study to throw light on this little reviewed subject.