tobacco product waste

1 - Which tobacco products with filters and filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products fall under the Single-Use Plastic Products Regulation (so-called “SUP Regulation”)?

Tobacco products with filters or filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products containing cellulose acetate are considered a chemically modified natural polymer and fall within the scope of the SUP Decree if they meet certain conditions, namely: be disposable and/or contain a filter containing disposable plastic.

Examples of affected tobacco products:

  • Cigarettes and filtered cigars.
  • Tobacco sticks that can be used with the appropriate electronic devices (*).
  • Separate disposable filters (to be used for rolling tobacco).


(*) These electronic devices are also subject, as far as their end-of-life management is concerned, to the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) regulation – please visit the Erion WEEE website in this regard.

Tobacco products generate, after their use, waste, so-called ‘butts’. It is important to note that when talking about cigarette butts generated by smokers, reference is not only made to filters for traditional cigarettes and cigarillos, but also to filters for fine-cut and heated tobacco.

In the case of combusted tobacco, each butt consists of the filter, made in turn of cellulose acetate – which filters out the substances produced (residues, nicotine, carbon monoxide) and helps the smoker to hold and put out the cigarette – and also of paper, unburned tobacco, ash and other combustion by-products.

In the case of heated tobacco, stick filters are made of bioplastics (cellulose acetate and/or polylactic acid) with the function of lowering the temperature of the vapour, so as to make it suitable for inhalation and retaining its chemical substances. As there is no combustion, there is no ash or other smoke residues.

Both filters, those used in combusted tobacco products and those in heated tobacco products, if not properly disposed of, can cause considerable environmental damage. That is why the law provides for such products Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) as a policy instrument.

Erion Care is the Compliance Scheme of the Erion System that ensures the fulfilment of the obligations under the EPR regulation on waste generated by tobacco products with filters and filters for use in combination with tobacco products, pursuant to Legislative Decree No. 196 of 2021 (“SUP Decree”) implementing Directive (EU) 2019/904.

Littering is the deliberate or unintentional disposal of small-sized waste in public or open spaces. Regrettably, this is a very common phenomenon, which also includes cigarette butts. This appears evident if we think that in Italy about 64% of cigarettes smoked in public places (parks, gardens, squares and streets) are disposed of improperly by discarding the butts as litter.

Littering is primarily a behavioural and sociological issue, fuelled by a lack of knowledge of the impacts that such an action can have and the general disregard of some people for urban spaces, the environment, and the civil rules of good coexistence.

When improperly disposed of, cigarette butts not only pollute our cities, but also ‒ through rain and wind ‒ rivers and seas, causing serious damage to ecosystems on a global scale.

The butt filter is in fact the most resistant part of tobacco products being made mostly of cellulose acetate, which can take even years to degrade. This, if improperly disposed of, can contaminate the surrounding environment: just think that a single cigarette butt can contaminate up to 1,000 litres of water.

Animals, birds, fish and even pets can ingest plastic waste by mistaking it for food: when this happens with small-sized waste such as tobacco product litter, it can lead to blockages in their digestive systems and even death because of the substances it contains.

Over time, the butts degrade, but when this occurs at sea, the likelihood of intake by marine organisms and birds increases exponentially: many substances present in cigarette butts have been found in 30% of turtles and 70% of the birds analyzed.

Cigarette butts also contribute, to a significant extent, to a dirtier environment, especially of beaches, which can translate into economic impacts for the community in terms of damage to the image of places of historical and tourist interest, with a significantly lower influx of tourists.

There is no simple solution; addressing the problem requires integrated actions and strategies by producers, national institutions, local authorities, environmental associations and consumers. Among these, awareness-raising activities are of primary importance for educating and sensitize the public, first and foremost consumers, of the damage that a seemingly trivial act causes to the environment and society.

Best practices, campaigns, activities or initiatives implemented so far are mainly structured in the following areas of action:

  1. Raising citizens’ awareness about respecting the environment and on the impacts, risks, and consequences of littering by focusing on educating people about sustainability.
  2. Removal of tobacco product litter and the cleaning of the environment and the territory.
  3. More effective placement of the bins already installed, promoting the interception of cigarette butts in hotspots (i.e., areas that are used frequently, such as streets, squares or public gardens, where such waste is habitually generated), better signage of the available bins and the distribution of portable ashtrays, with the aim of providing people with a real alternative to wrong and uncivilized behaviour.

Article 40 of Law No. 221 of 28 December 2015 (so-called “Environmental Provisions”), introduces fines ranging from EUR 30 to EUR 150 for those who improperly dispose of small and very small waste by discarding it in the streets, water and drains, which double up to EUR 300 in the case of cigarette butts.

Erion Care was established in 2022 to meet the requirements set forth in the SUP Decree on EPR. Erion Care’s vision is to enhance the environmental, social and economic commitment and responsibility of Producers who place on the Italian market tobacco products with filters and filters for use in combination with tobacco products, towards the community, with a view to co-responsibility and cooperation with the other actors in the chain.

The Compliance Scheme’s activities are focused on managing regulatory compliance for its Member Producers and aim at:

  • preventing the generation of waste from tobacco products with filter and filters marketed for use in combination with tobacco products(“REFILLS”), including through information and public awareness campaigns;
  • contributing to the financing of REFILLS removal activities in accordance with the provisions of the SUP Decree;
  • carrying out EPR data collection and report them to the relevant institutions.

How to
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