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article imageAdding cigarette butts to asphalt can improve roads

By Karen Graham     Aug 8, 2017 in Technology
Melbourne - Trillions of cigarette butts are produced every year worldwide, with the majority of them discarded into the environment. However, a team of scientists in Australia has come up with a unique use for all those useless butts.
The filters on cigarettes are one of the most common forms of litter. An estimated 1.3 million tons of them are produced every year around the world and after smoking a cigarette, the only thing a person can do is either "field-strip" the left over butt or discard it, which means the butt-end of the cigarette is thrown on the ground.
The thing is, those filters on the ends of cigarettes are meant to capture many of the toxic chemicals in the tobacco, so the butts are especially toxic to the environment. The chemicals leech into waterways, endangering fish and other aquatic organisms while disposing of them in landfills doesn't help much either because the plastic in the filters isn't biodegradable.
However, a team at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, led by Dr. Abbas Mohajerani, has shown that asphalt mixed with cigarette butts can not only handle heavy traffic but has also lower thermal conductivity than traditional black top, reducing the "heat island" effect seen in cities, according to Atlas Obscura.
According to Dr. Mohajerani, a senior lecturer in RMIT's School of Engineering, using cigarette butts in this unique manner would solve two problems, one of them being the huge waste problem associated with them and the creation of a new, lightweight aggregate that can be used in road construction.
In describing the research, Dr, IMohajerani said, "I have been trying for many years to find sustainable and practical methods for solving the problem of cigarette butt pollution." He explained the research team encapsulated cigarette butts with bitumen and paraffin wax to lock in the chemicals and prevent leeching from the asphalt.
Then, "The encapsulated cigarettes butts were mixed with hot asphalt mix for making samples," Mohajerani said. To simulate various road conditions, different densities of cigarette butts and bitumen were used to create samples of asphalt, which were then tested by being put under varying pressures. the new material was able to withstand a range of conditions, from light to heavy traffic.
“This research shows that you can create a new construction material while ridding the environment of a huge waste problem,” said Mohajerani, in a press release. The project is the result of five years of research and was published in the journal of Construction and Building Materials.
More about cigarette butts, Asphalt, encapsulation, Chemicals, new aggregates