An extended hand holding cigarette butts and small trash collected from a sandy beach, with beach chairs and umbrellas blurred in the background.

“Shocking Findings: Cigarette Butt Pollution Threatens Cancun’s Marine Life”

Cigarette butts have emerged as one of the most significant marine pollutants today. They are often the most abundant waste found during coastal cleanups. This past Saturday, a cleanup activity took place across several locations including Isla Mujeres, Puerto Morelos, Cozumel, Tulum, and Cancun. In Cancun, cigarette butts were the most common item found in the marine ecosystem.

Out of roughly 102 kilograms of waste collected from the beach and Nichupté lagoon, cigarette butts were the most prevalent, with at least 170 found. Marilú Monroy Isas, the coordinator of the cleanup, noted that despite being one of the smallest types of waste, cigarette butts are among the most damaging. A single cigarette butt can pollute up to eight liters of saltwater and pose a significant threat to marine species.

The cleanup took place at Playa Langosta, with volunteers using kayaks to reach the seabed. Isas pointed out that there are currently no facilities on the beaches for people to dispose of their cigarette butts, even though smoking on the beach is supposedly prohibited. She suggested that smokers could bring their own containers to collect and remove their cigarette butts if they choose to smoke.

The Quintana Roo Congress recently proposed an initiative to modify the Rights Law for Girls, Boys, and Adolescents. The proposed changes would increase education about the importance of the environment in schools and include a focus on animal welfare. This education would also cover the care of Quintana Roo's beaches and oceans, but the proposal is still awaiting approval from legislators.

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In previous beach cleanups, aluminum cans were the most common pollutant found along the coast of Benito Juárez, along with cigarette butts. The goal is to eliminate these harmful habits and encourage citizens to learn about environmental conservation, thereby reducing waste in the ecosystem.

Around 55 volunteers from organizations such as Parley for the Oceans, Go Kayak, Snorkeling for Trash, Ecocaribe, and Saving our Sharks participated in the recent cleanup. Of the waste collected, 70% was non-recyclable, while the remaining 30% could be recycled.