Economy & Politics

Shime puts the package on the hunt for butts

How about giving leftover cigarettes a second life? With 5.6 billion cigarette butts discarded per year on the planet, there is plenty to do and a Luxembourg company has chosen to bet on this smoking business.

Environment and economy

How about giving leftover cigarettes a second life? With 5.6 billion cigarette butts discarded per year on the planet, there is plenty to do and a Luxembourg company has chosen to bet on this smoking business.

(pj with Nadia di Pillo) Stéphane Borzellino has an obsession. Small in size, but the most common waste in the world. Yes, it is the cigarette butt. And the entrepreneur chose to target this product to make it a business. With his company Shime, he thus collects cigarette butts but on an XXL scale and beyond the Grand Duchy itself. “It goes very quickly. Nothing but the ashtray posted in front of the company. By himself, he can receive 8,500 tips of cigarettes. ” By recovering them, the company is thus working to protect the environment.

The Luxembourg State spends 1.2 million euros each year to remove waste thrown by drivers or deposited along the main roads.

Because neither filters nor nicotine mix well with nature, and particularly water resources. Hence this “Zero Mégot” project which consists of collecting as many cigarette ends as possible for recycling. “So far, we have installed more than 360 ashtrays for this purpose in Luxembourg”, testifies the company manager. All that is needed is for an operator to come and vacuum everything, and the collected volumes are then shipped to France, recycled by the Mégo company, which in its Brest workshops will transform this material into … street furniture.

Initially in 2017 (and still today), Shime practiced in sustainable development consulting. And two years after its creation, the link was made with Mégo. And immediately Stéphane Borzellino and the co-founder Stéphane Hérard were intrigued by this funny idea: to go from butt to public benches, chairs for parks (and even dispensers of hydroalcoholic gel!). Today, this magic trick operates on 15 tons of cigarette butts!

With “Zéro Mégot”, Shime is approaching businesses as well as communities to educate them on the reprocessing of what until now usually ended up on the ground, in the gutter, in the sewer. And the market promises to be large, since 5.6 billion cigarettes are consumed each year. Enough to harm the planet nature with cellulose acetate fibers, arsenic, lead, cadmium, formaldehyde and benzene. “A single cigarette butt can thus pollute up to 500 liters of water,” recalls Stéphane Borzellino.

Obviously, no city or town has waited for Shime to pick up his butts or verbalize unruly smokers. But this collection in urban areas, in green spaces, is as delicate as it is costly in terms of labor. Also the fight against “littering” has become a moral as much as a financial priority for many elected officials, driven in this by the fellow citizens annoyed to see their living environment soiled by this waste.

So Shime offers various ashtrays for municipalities, businesses and event organizers to collect cigarette ends. “Even pocket ashtrays if necessary,” smiles the manager, whose activity now covers 18% of Luxembourg’s municipalities. “Audits are currently being carried out in other places, and we hope to be present in one in five municipalities by the end of the year”, considers Stéphane Borzellino.

While the number of smokers is tending to increase in Luxembourg, the Cancer Foundation is particularly concerned about the heavy consumption of tobacco among young people. According to her: the democratization of shisha, and the low cost of cigarette packs.

Shime, supported by Luxinnovation, now aims to collect used cigarettes directly from individuals. After all, 70% of ‘cigarettes’ are smoked at home or around. The inhabitants would thus have a bin available for this waste, which could then be dumped into larger collectors before being emptied by the company’s care.

This will always be better than the current solution which, most of the time, causes the contents of an ashtray to end up in the incinerator, without being reused.

Secretly, Stéphane Borzellino hopes that Luxembourg will follow France’s example. Paris requires cigarette producers to participate financially in investing in recycling their products. As a result, the tobacco industry is supposed to contribute 80 million euros per year to waste disposal and awareness campaigns. Enough to encourage initiatives like Shime’s to develop even further.


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