Are Cigarette papers biodegradable? (5 sources)

This article will explain the biodegradability status of cigarette papers. Other covered aspects would include: 

  • What is cigarette paper?
  • What are cigarette papers made of?
  • How is cigarette paper made?
  • What is the environmental impact of cigarette paper?
  • Are cigarette papers biodegradable?
  • FAQs

Are Cigarette papers biodegradable?

Cigarette papers are biodegradable because they are made from plant-based sources. The sources include rice, hemp, wood pulp, esparto and flax. 

Biodegradability is the process in which waste is broken down into simpler materials by the action of microbes and enzymes.

Based on the concept of biodegradability, there are two types of waste. One is biodegradable and the other is non-biodegradable. Biodegradable waste is mostly made from natural sources. Non-biodegradable waste is mostly made from non-natural sources.

What is cigarette paper?

Cigarette paper is also termed rolling paper. As the name suggests, rolling papers or cigarette papers are the paper that is used to fold up the material inside a cigarette. The rolling paper may come in certain variations based on the required functions. 

Rolling papers are sometimes also regarded as blanks and may be used to cover cannabis or tobacco. The most common material that may be used to make rolling papers include non-wood plant fibres. These fibres may be sourced from sources such as flax, rice straw or esparto. 

Cigarette paper is an important element that is used to make cigarettes. Without it, there will be no functional value of cigarettes. Therefore, there are certain properties and characteristics that have to be ensured while selecting the right cigarette or rolling papers. 

Among these properties, one important one is the characteristic of permeability. This is important because this feature gets in line with the overall function of cigarettes. After all, the main purpose of cigarettes is to let the smoke pass. 

As said, cigarette papers may come in different variations such as white, coloured and even flavoured. These variations exist because different types of cigarettes are required with certain properties. 

The most common use of cigarette papers is to ensure apt covering of inside material which mostly is tobacco and cannabis. 

What are cigarette papers made of? (5 materials) 

Cigarette papers are referred to as blanks or rolling papers. This section will cover the most common materials that are used in the making of cigarettes or rolling papers. 

This section is important because the materials that may be used to make a certain product are very important in determining the overall characteristics of the product. Further, it also facilitates the prognostication of the environmental impact that is rendered by any commercial product. 

For example, there are two types of plastics that are there in the consumer world. One is made from non-natural sources such as fossil fuel derivatives. The other is made from plant-based sources such as corn starch et cetera. 

It is claimed that the environmental impact of the latter is much less compared to the former mainly because of the type of material that is used in the making of these products. Bioplastics offer much less pollution and environmental degradation as compared to conventional plastics. 

Now, if we consider the case of cigarette papers, it is seen that these also are extracted from plant sources. Therefore, it can be assumed that the environmental impact of cigarette papers will not be that significant. A stance can also be built up on the biodegradation of blanks which will shed more light in the coming sections. 

The most common source from which blanks or cigarette papers are made is non-wood fibres. These fibres may be sourced and extracted from a couple of sources which may include: 

  • Rice
  • Hemp
  • Wood pulp
  • Esparto
  • Flax

Since there is a variety that exists, it can also be assumed that there will be varying quality and utility factors of different sources. 

It is argued that the most common source of cigarette paper is rice. The mass production of cigarette papers back in the 1800s was also done by using rice as the cigarette paper material. 

Another common material that may be used to make cigarette papers is hemp which is mostly involved in the covering of marijuana. One great advantage that hemp offers is that it is easy to make while also being natural and organic at the same time. 

Another common material that may be employed as cigarette paper is called the wood pulp. However, there are certain reasons why wood pulp is no longer used with fervency. These factors include harsh taste and the fervent likelihood of toxic materials. 

Among the remaining materials that may be used to make cigarette papers, there is flax and esparto. These materials are not used that commonly but had been in increased use in the primal times of cigarette smoking. 

It may also be stated that esparto is also termed needle grass and may contain certain carcinogens as well. Because of this, esperto is also regarded as the least used material to make cigarette papers. 

How is cigarette paper made?

Cigarette paper is made in the following steps: 

  • Harvesting 
  • Processing
  • Pulp formation
  • Paper cutting
  • The assemblage of rolling papers
  • Post-production processing

While producing cigarette papers, it is necessary that the following ingredients may be avoided as these can be toxic and hazardous to human health and also the environment eventually. 

  • Artificial dyes
  • Chalk
  • Titanium oxide
  • Chlorine bleach 
  • Potassium nitrate 

Items such as titanium oxide deplete the utility of cigarette papers in many ways. For example, the said material may result in increased burning of cigarettes and could cause house fires and casualties. 

Substances such as chlorine may be toxic and harmful to human health and therefore must be avoided in the cigarette paper-making process. 

What is the environmental impact of cigarette papers?

It is usually perceived that products and materials made from natural sources will have no impact on the environment. However, this statement is quite distant from the actual reality. 

The primary reason is that every consumer product will have some impact on the environment. Consumer products are made from raw materials at the expense of energy and leaving behind waste. All these factors impact our environment. 

Paper is made from trees and this means that there will be cutting of trees. It is already suggested that human activities have resulted in a 50% decreased tree count. 

Trees are essential entities that save us from environmental anomalies and play their part in the sustainability and maintaining the greenness of the environment.

If there will be excessive tree cutting, there will be negative impacts on the environment including soil erosion, destruction of habitats, and disruption of ecosystems. Trees are the primary producers. They are the starting points of food webs and food chains. 

If trees are cut in grave amounts, there will be effects reciprocated at various levels of food chains. 

The production of paper also is energy and water consumptive. This leads to the emissions of GHGs which may cause global warming and other environment-related anomalies. The various impact and effects caused by global warming can be summarised in the following points: 

  • Rising sea levels
  • Soil erosion
  • Deforestation
  • Disruption of ecosystems 
  • Pollution
  • Psychological impacts
  • Ozone depletion 
  • Skin & eyes diseases 

Therefore, it is incumbent that paper manufacture is made in line with concepts of sustainability by cutting trees from controlled environments and making use of renewable resources rather than non-renewable resources.

While these are impacts rendered by the paper on the environment, the impacts of tape are even worse and more intimidating. 

Are cigarette papers biodegradable?

Biodegradability is explained as a process in which waste is broken down into simpler materials by the action of microbes and enzymes. 

Other facilitators of biodegradability may include external conditions such as aeration, sunlight, temperature, or pressure. 

The microbes that are responsible for the breakdown of complex waste involve organisms such as bacteria, fungi, algae, viruses, protozoa et cetera. 

The process of biodegradability holds importance because it negates the existence of waste accumulation. If this does not happen, there will be pollution and increased medical conditions.

Based on the concept of biodegradability, there are two types of waste. One is biodegradable and the other is non-biodegradable. 

Biodegradable waste is mostly made from natural sources. Examples of such sources include plants and animals. 

Non-biodegradable waste is mostly made from non-natural sources. Examples of such waste may include synthetic polymers, synthetic fabrics et cetera. 

Since cigarette paper is obtained from natural sources, it is plausible to state that cigarette papers are indeed biodegradable. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that cigarette papers are biodegradable because they are made from plant-based sources. The sources include rice, hemp, wood pulp, esparto and flax. 

Biodegradability is the process in which waste is broken down into simpler materials by the action of microbes and enzymes.

Based on the concept of biodegradability, there are two types of waste. One is biodegradable and the other is non-biodegradable. Biodegradable waste is mostly made from natural sources. Non-biodegradable waste is mostly made from non-natural sources.

Frequently Asked Questions: Are Cigarette papers biodegradable?

What are cigarette papers called? 

Cigarette papers are called rolling paper. 

Should cigarette paper contain artificial dyes?

No, cigarette paper should not contain artificial dyes as they can be hazardous to human health. 

References

  • Shen, J., Li, J., Qian, X., Ren, W., & Fatehi, P. (2014). A review on the engineering of cellulosic cigarette paper to reduce carbon monoxide delivery of cigarettes. Carbohydrate polymers, 101, 769-775.
  • Baldry, P. J., Cullis, C. F., Goring, D., & Hirschler, M. M. (1988). The combustion of cigarette paper. Fire and materials, 12(1), 25-33.
  • Biermann, C. J. (1993). Essentials of pulping and papermaking. Academic Press.
  • Hubbe, M. A., Venditti, R. A., & Rojas, O. J. (2007). What happens to cellulosic fibres during papermaking and recycling? A review. BioResources, 2(4), 739-788.

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