Mexican company recycles cigarette butts to help the environment

"Verde Halago" also organizes the "Colillatón" a yearly event in which people can help cleaning Mexican beaches

Mexican company recycles cigarette butts to help the environment
“Verde Halago” collects and recycles cigarette butts to create ecologic products – Photo: Taken from Verde Halago’s Facebook account
English 17/08/2019 16:15 Newsroom Mexico City Actualizada 16:24

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While she was studying in the Design School of Bellas Artes, Nayely Martínez never liked smoking, although it is a common habit for some people for relaxing or having a conversation.

“When I started doing research about this topic, I noticed that the whole city is full of cigarette butts,” remembers the 27-year-old woman.

She is aware of the harm cigarette butts cause to the environment; data of Mexico City’s Environment Ministry show that 65% of them end up on the floor of the city.

Hence, Nayely created “Verde Halago,” an organization that takes care of the environment. This collective collects cigarette butts to give them a second use: turning them into pots or personalized tags, which are mainly acquired by hotels as ornaments.

Nayely considers that creating awareness in the community of smokers is necessary so that they stop throwing away cigarette butts everywhere. The premise of “Verde Halago” is to offer a better future for the next generations:

“When I was a student, I took several courses related to production processes, especially about how to make products from fibers with low environmental impact.

“By experimenting with natural substances, I motivated myself to create a material that eliminates toxic waste from the environment and all that led me to the research of new recycling options.”



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An effort to save the environment
Nayely started collecting cigarette butts in Mexico City, but when she went to Cancún on vacation, she got together with Eduardo, a friend from high school, and showed him the idea of “Verde Halago.”

“We talked about our projects and he fell in love with the concept, the objectives and the benefits for the environment if it were done in Cancún. He was in charge of the promotion with hotel companies and ecologic bazaars. It was completely unexpected and changed the course of the brand.”

The ecologic pots of “Verde Halago” are made from a mix of paper and cigarette butts. Those materials work like sponges that retain humidity for days to keep plants hydrated.

Cigarette butts are a problematic waste all around the world. Millions of them end up daily in the street and the oceans.

A report from 2011 of the organization Ocean Conservancy indicates that a single cigarette butt can contaminate up to 8 liters of seawater and 50 of drinking water.

Everyone can help
The working area of the collective headed by Nayely Martínez comprehends the area of Cancún and Playa del Carmen. They also made contact with hotel chains to organize the “Colillatón,” a day to collect this waste that is celebrated since September 2017.

Most of those who attend the event find about the locations and schedule through social networks, local mass media or from neighbors.

Hotels benefit from “Colillatón” by doing socially responsible actions; there are also smokers who collaborate in the collection since they want to reduce the impact of the cigarette butts they generate.

“We reached hotel chains through collaborators of “Verde Halago.” Due to the good results, they invited other brands to participate. During all this time, the movement has grown and more companies join every year,” says Nayely.

29 companies of the Mayan Riviera participated in the third edition of “Colillatón” and more than 100 kilograms of this waste were collected, which is equivalent to preventing the pollution of 17 million liters of drinking water.

“Verde Halago” does not want people to quit smoking, but to create awareness of the waste and the collateral damage caused by this habit; each cigarette butt can take up to 10 years to decompose.



Una publicación compartida de Verde Halago (@verde.halago) el

A visible damage
Cigarette butts are one of many residues that are not regulated globally, and according to the analysis of Ocean Conservancy, it causes inappropriate management and inadequate measures for their treatment.

In the ocean, fish can eat the cigarette butts and the minuscule sea bacterias needed for the ecosystem die. Besides, pets like dogs and cats can also ingest them by accident causing intoxication. The measure of the problem does not allow to calculate the amount of fauna that dies.

“Verde Halago” has collaborated with the cleaning of beaches with Karla Murguía, a lecturer focused on the preservation of the environment as a member of the movement “Plogging México” that collects and reuses wastes to create awareness in the population about generating fewer residues.

“We have to create a very strong culture of awareness so that people stop throwing away cigarette butts in order to recycle them. Definitely, ‘Verde Halago’ is a reflection of the education I’ve been taught towards the environment my whole life,” considers Karla.

Currently, “Verde Halago” is processing all the collected cigarette butts to create new ecologic products.

Besides the pots and tags, they also make notebooks with recycled paper and a great variety of home ornaments.

According to the results of a study of Greenpeace in October 2018, cigarette butts and plastic are the greatest contaminants of Mexican beaches.

That is why “Verde Halago” has joined the efforts of other Mexican groups, such as EcoFilter by Paola Garro and Polo Benítez, to clean the beaches and streets of the country. Many initiatives are born from ideas of young enthusiasts that evolve with time in sustainable projects to have a cleaner country.