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No more dirty butts


Dirty cigarette butts on pavements could be a thing of the past if an idea from two Northumbria University students takes off.

Lisa Hanking and Lucy Denham came up with the concept of a biodegradable cigarette – and took joint first prize in a sustainability project organised by Northumbria’s School of Design and Chester-le-Street District Council.

The “environmentally-friendly’’ cigarette uses expandable vegetable starch for the filter which would simply be washed away by rainwater. The paper would be made from recycled hemp, which is cheap and also fully biodegradable. The use of organic tobacco would prevent fish and other wildlife being harmed by pesticides which are still used by the large tobacco firms.

The pair, who are both second year students on the Design for Industry course, also looked at cigarettes being sold in tins which could simply be re-filled rather than wasting money on unnecessary packaging. Lisa said: “People leave cigarette butts on the ground but its not really considered as litter yet it takes 12 years for one to biodegrade.’’ Lucy added: “We didn’t want to put the emphasis on the rights and wrongs of smoking. If people want to smoke, there’s not much you can do about it but we felt there were steps that could be taken to make the smoking process a greener one.’’

A solution to the massive landfill problem caused by disposable nappies also earned the top slot in the contest. Design for Industry students Simon Newbegin, Daniel Barron and Richard Dale came up with the concept of a “hybrid nappy’’ which combines the convenience of disposables with the sustainability of traditional nappies.

Their concept used the idea of a traditional nappy with a biodegradable cornstarch centre which would absorb solids and simply be thrown away after use. While the cotton nappy would still need to be washed, their solution was for local councils to lease purpose-built nappy washers together with the cotton nappies for a small fee which could be passed on to other households once the child had outgrown the need for nappies.

Daniel said: “We wanted to try and find a solution to the landfill issue as disposable nappies account for 15 per cent of landfill space. “We also felt it was vital to come up with a simple solution that people would be willing to take on. These nappies represent a hassle-free way of helping the environment while still enjoying the convenience of disposable nappies.’’ Andy Stephenson, Sustainability Officer at Chester-le-Street District Council, said: “These young designers have the potential to really influence the issue of sustainability in design as their careers progress. In the future they are likely to be able to exert real power over the way everyone will be living their lives in the future.’’

Councillor Geoff Armstrong, Chair of the Green Communities Advisory Panel, said: "I was very impressed by the high standard of the designs. Design is probably one of the most under-rated areas where sustainable solutions can be created to safeguard our environment on both a local and global level."

Katrina Alnikizil | alfa
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