Innovation That Matters

Cigarette butts enhance asphalt performance


A researcher has developed a technique which uses cigarette butts to create better performing asphalt.

We have recently seen a variety of new materials created from what was once garbage, including a coffee cup made from coffee waste and sand created from recycled beer bottles. Cigarette butts are another very common item of trash. Around six trillion cigarette butts are produced every year worldwide. Many of these end up tossed onto the ground where they take years to break down, while they release toxic chemicals into parks, rivers and the ocean. What if, instead of littering roads and sidewalks, cigarette butts could be used to create them? This is the question tackled by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) senior lecturer Dr Abbas Mohajerani and his team.

Dr. Mohajerani, a senior lecturer in RMIT’s School of Engineering, has been trying for many years to find sustainable and practical solutions to the problem of cigarette butt waste, including turning them into bricks. In his recent research Dr. Mohajerani has extended the sustainability question to another branch of construction. To prevent the chemicals in the cigarette butts from leaching out, he encased them in bitumen and paraffin wax. The encapsulated cigarettes butts were then mixed with hot asphalt to create a new, lightweight aggregate.

The cigarette-enhanced asphalt is capable of handling heavy traffic and also has a lower thermal conductivity than normal asphalt. This means that cigarette asphalt used to pave roads and sidewalks in cities could help reduce the urban heat island effect which is responsible for rising city temperatures. Said Mohajerani, “Encapsulated cigarette butts developed in this research will be a new construction material which can be used in different applications and lightweight composite products. This research shows that you can create a new construction material while ridding the environment of a huge waste problem.” What other uses might be found for other types of garbage?




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