Chilean designer Alexandra Guerrero has been experimenting with what just may be the last thing anyone would think of as clothing material: cigarette butts. At first thought, that may sound over the top, or like it’s just meant to grab headlines, right? But the most surprising thing about the initiative is that the resulting pieces made from butts blended with wool look promising–cool even.
Turning Dirty Cigarette Butts into Wool
The Mantis project began when designer Alexandra Guerrero was preparing a graduation thesis. Ever aware of the vast amount of cigarette butts everywhere in the city of Santiago de Chile, she started thinking about what could be done with them, and came up with a way to mix the tissue of the filter with natural wool to create a rustic-looking thread that could be knitted into all kinds of garments.
Of course, putting used cigarette butts in contact with your skin could not only be disgusting, but potentially dangerous. So before continuing on with her project, Guerrero asked environmental engineer Carolina Leiva to conduct a study to determine just how pure the material would be after cleaning the butts. The study concluded that the filters could achieve 95% purification, which, according to the designer, means that the clean butts are safe to use.
The purification process begins with the cigarette butts going through autoclaves. They are then washed in a polar solvent, go through autoclave again, rinsed and dried, and, finally, shredded to create a wool-like material. The resulting liquid is also being donated to be tested as a biological insecticide.
Clothing and Objects Made from Recycled Cigarette Butts
So far the designer has produced a vest, a poncho, a dress, and a hat, and even has mixed the material from the cigarette filters with soap to make an exfoliating product.
The end-result textile contains 20% recycled-cigarette filter material, and Guerrero has recover 5,000 cigarette butts from the streets so far.
Even soap can be made from purifies cigarette butts!
This might not be the ultimate solution to the huge problem of cigarette litter (4.3 trillion butts are discarded a year; they never fully degrade and only begin to break after 12 years, according to ButtsOut), but neither is it a bad way to raise awareness about what can be done with otherwise dreadful waste material.