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A group of teenagers in France have kickstarted a new viral challenge that encourages the world to help clean up discarded cigarette butts, after kickstarting the revolutionary #FillTheBottle movement.
The hashtag was launched by an 18-year-old called Amel Talha, who was inspired after spotting a Twitter post from her friend, Jason Prince, two weeks ago.
Posting a picture of an empty water bottle that he'd filled with cigarette butts, Prince had tweeted: "20 minutes to fill this 1 litre bottle in an area of less than 50m. This is extremely serious."
Another of their friends called Christian Musitu Swamu then retweeted the photo, writing: "It isn't much, but if everybody did it, that would be something cool."
In a bid to help Prince's idea take flight, Talha realised it needed a catchy hashtag to help it travel through the internet.
"#FillTheBottle would be cool I think," she tweeted.
It turned out the world agreed; within 24 hours, thousands had jumped onto the bandwagon to do their part, and in the fortnight that followed the hashtag has popped up everywhere from Bulgaria and Switzerland to South Africa and Tahiti.
Talha, a student who returns to medical school in September, told LADbible: "I think it is very important to make people realise that this movement is here to make them wake up, make them realise that the situation is critical, that we have to do something and now.
Talha advised downloading apps like Too Good To Go to cut down on waste or Ecosia to plant trees is a good place to start, along with 'picking up trash' as she and her friends had done.
Filters found at the end of cigarette butts are made of a synthetic product called cellulose acetate. According to environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, the filters often contain plastics, arsenic, lead and nicotine, all of which can leak into the environment and harm marine life.
The charity says that it can take anywhere from 18 months to a decade for the butts to break down, which means they often pollute the planet years after they're stubbed out by a smoker.
Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive Allison Ogden-Newton told LADbible: "Keep Britain Tidy are acutely aware of the issues that cigarette litter present to the environment. Cigarettes are the number 1 littered item throughout the UK, and in fact are found at 79% of the sites we survey [79% of the 7,200 sites surveyed for the Keep Britain Tidy Local Environmental Quality Survey of England 2017/2018].
"We know from our extensive research that many smokers do not think of cigarettes as litter. However as well as plastic, cigarette filters are comprised of thousands of chemical ingredients, including arsenic, lead and nicotine, all of which can leak into land and marine environments."
Ogden-Newton added: "We would encourage everyone to get involved in the #FillTheBottle challenge to help clear-up the mess but also pass the message via social media that littering butts just isn't acceptable."
Research from the charity also suggests that just one cigarette butt per litre of water can be highly toxic to fish - a concerning figure that Talha and her friends decided to demonstrate with a stunt at the Champ de Mars in Paris.
They installed large see-through vessel for people to dump the cigarette butts they'd collected, showing how many filters it would take to pollute the equivalent of a swimming pool.
Un peu plus d'une piscine olympique sauver :recycle::smoking::pray: #FillTheBottle pic.twitter.com/C3oGTNzfAi
- M E L (@AmlTlh) August 8, 2019
To dispose of the butts, Talha has been working with French company MéGo, which collects and recycles filters by processing them into plastic products, including ashtrays.
Talha, who plans to take part in a major climate march in September, added: "We all have to do small actions if we want to live in a better world. We don't have to do something big!"
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