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Cellulose acetate from recycling of cigarette butts and filters

cellulose acetate recoverycigarette buttsCircular economyEconomia circolareEnvironmental SustainabilitySostenibilità Ambientaleurban waste management


Cigarette filters and cigarette butts represent urban waste and contribute to the pollution of water bodies, as they are among the main sources of microplastics. A method is proposed for the disposal of filters and cigarette butts and the recovery of cellulose acetate (CA), to be reintroduced into the production cycle as a secondary raw material. The proposed method does not provide for prior separation of the components (paper, tobacco residues and ash) of cigarette butts or pre-treatment.

Technical features

Today, cigarette filters and cigarette butts, assimilated as municipal waste, are disposed of in landfills or incinerators. The proposed method disposes of this waste and enables the recovery of cellulose acetate (CA); it consists of the following steps

(a) soaking of filters and cigarette butts, in solvent (acetone) to solubilise AC and nicotine;

(b) removal of paper, ash and tobacco residue by filtration;

(c) addition of anti-solvent (water) to the solution to induce precipitation of AC, which can then be recovered/filtered;

(d) recovery for a new acetone treatment cycle from the residual mixture by boiling;

(e) treatment (using known techniques) or start-up for disposal in a suitable plant of the waste produced, consisting of the pollutants concentrated in a small quantity of water.

The AC solid obtained is clean (the pollutants remain in the acetone and water mixture) and can be reused to make various objects (e.g. spectacle frames, masks, shields, strings, …)

Possible Applications

  • Urban Waste Management;
  • Plastics Industry (producers of cellulose acetate);
  • Tobacco Industry (cigarette manufacturers);
  • Eco-design Industry (cellulose acetate as a second raw material.


  • Simple process, implemented with standard techniques;
  • Cheap process;
  • Low environmental impact process (small quantities of water and concentrated nicotine as process waste, sent for treatment).