Wearing Cigarettes… and Looking Good!

October 14th, 2011 | Simcha Weinstein | Comments Off on Wearing Cigarettes… and Looking Good!

Statistics on cigarettes and cigarette smoking are mind numbing. There are around 1.2 billion smokers in the world (about one-third of the global population aged 15 and over). Global cigarette production, even as far back as 2004, was 5.5 trillion units, or 868 cigarettes per every man, woman and child on the planet. Each year nearly 600 million trees are destroyed to provide fuel to dry tobacco. Put another way, one tree is destroyed for every 300 cigarettes. Globally, tobacco curing requires 11.4 million tons of solid wood annually. About 15 billion cigarettes are sold daily – or 10 million every minute.

If cigarette smoking doesn’t take your breath away, those statistics certainly will. And here’s another doozy – cigarette litter – where 4.3 trillion butts are discarded a year; and they never fully degrade, and only begin to break down after 12 years. Interestingly, Chilean designer Alexandra Guerrero may just have the solution for this particular problem. She has been experimenting with what may be the last thing anyone would think of as clothing material: cigarette butts.

Guerrero blends the butts in with wool to create her fabric-blend. The project originated when she was preparing a graduation thesis. Keenly aware of the vast amount of cigarette butts that littler the streets of Santiago de Chile, Guerrero began thinking about what could be done with them, and came up with a way to mix the tissue of the filter with natural wool to create a rustic-looking thread that could be knitted into a variety of garments.

The main production issues focused on concerns about having cigarette butt material come in contact with skin, so Guerrero partnered with environmental engineer Carolina Leiva to conduct a study to determine just how pure the material would be after cleaning the butts. The study concluded that the filters could achieve 95% purification – good enough to be used. The purification process is working well and the end-result textile contains 20% recycled-cigarette filter material, and Guerrero has recovered over 5,000 cigarette butts from the streets of Santiago.

Her designs to date include a vest, a poncho, several hats, and a dress. It’s just one person, and there are still plenty of cigarette butts that need to be dealt with, but this is a great start, and certainly a very imaginative and creative solution to a very ugly problem. We need more thinking like this… for any of our problems.