London - They are discarded in their trillions across the world every year without a second thought. But littered cigarette butts can cause "serious damage" to the environment, experts have found.
Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University found the plastic filters in fag ends, which can take over a decade to biodegrade, stopped grass and clover growing normally. In clover, which absorbs pollution from diesel fumes, 27 percent fewer seeds grew in soil containing filters, compared with no filters.
And 10 percent less grass appeared under the same conditions – a result usually only seen in areas suffering from drought. Plants exposed to butts also had shorter stems and fewer roots.
Dr Dannielle Green, lead author of the study published in the journal Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, said: "The filter is made out of a type of bioplastic that can take years, if not decades, to break down.
"Dropping cigarette butts seems to be a socially acceptable form of littering and we need to raise awareness that the filters can cause serious damage to the environment."