Effects of cigarette butts on marine keystone species (Ulva lactuca L. and Mytilus edulis L.) and sediment microphytobenthos

Dannielle Senga Green*, Louise Kregting, Bas Boots

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
122 Downloads (Pure)


Outdoor mesocosms with constantly flowing natural seawater were used to test the effects of littered cigarette butts on the filter feeder Mytilus edulis (blue mussel), the macroalga, Ulva lactuca (sea lettuce) and sediment microphytobenthos in a semi-natural marine setting. Either conventional, cellulose acetate, or biodegradable, cellulose, smoked cigarette butts were added at densities of 0.25 or 1 butt L−1. The clearance rates of mussels exposed to 1 butt L−1 of cellulose acetate butts were three times less than the controls. The growth of U. lactuca was not measurably affected by cigarette butts, however the sediment chlorophyll content was significantly less in mesocosms exposed to 0.25 and 1 butt L−1 of cellulose acetate butts. These effects occurred despite constant replacement of seawater indicating how hazardous conventional cigarette butts are to marine life. Biodegradable cellulose cigarette butts had minimal effects on the measured variables but should still not be discarded as litter.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112152
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Early online date15 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Anglia Ruskin University for granting DSG a funded sabbatical allowing her to undertake this research.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Biodegradable
  • Cellulose acetate
  • Green butts
  • Hazardous
  • Single use plastics
  • Smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science
  • Pollution


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