Cigarette Filter

Study of urban birds’ behavior in order to reduce their exposure to cigarette filter by redesigning the filter portion

Personal Project

l  14 Weeks

The crisis

Every year, more than 6.5 trillion cigarettes are produced and consumed. Not only do these products have disastrous impacts on our health, but they also harm the environment directly. According to the WHO, cigarette butts, which are higher in toxins, are the most common form of litter in the world.

More than two-thirds of cigarette filters (4.5trillions) are dumped irresponsibly every year.

Cigarette butts comprise about 40% of all items collected in annual international coastal and urban cleanups. 1

The impact of Cigarettes was studied in different areas. The results were collected in a mind map.

The effects of cigarette on birds

Birds have a sensitive respiratory system as their system of lung sacs does not filter toxins the way human lungs do. Birds breathe much faster than we do, so their exposure to smoke can be more intense.

Sometimes birds mistake cigarette filters for food which the ingestion would lead to nausea, vomiting, seizures, and death

According to a study of song thrushes, when perceived by birds, cigarette butts were similar in appearance to the nest lining. So, they tend to use them as a convenient structural material. As a result of this incorporation, the toxic effects of exposure to cigarette butts cause genotoxic damage and may increase breeding costs. 2 & 3

How can we reduce the impact of cigarette filter on birds?

Study of birds' behavior

To co-exist with other creatures around us, we need to speak in their language. Birds’ vision is different from that of humans, as they are able to see UV colors, so their reaction varies according to what they see.

Research suggests that magpie birds ( a species that is is notorious for stealing shiny objects) tend to eat less food in the presence of shiny items and actually feel nervous around them. In this research, only two out of 64 birds picked up an item before dropping it immediately. 4

This behavior is known as Neophobia.

Nature's solution

Some scientists believe that the evolution of some animals has been on the same path. Out of many, leaf beetles and fish evolved reflective coverings to camouflage or to confuse the flying predators. 5

Current Applications

The study of neophobia in birds has already been used in different applications. Reflective tapes available in the market are known as one of the most effective methods for deterring intrusive birds.

In 2015, “Hungry Jack” a fast-food chain in Australia introduced a seagull deterrent chips package that scares off the birds who want to steal chips.

Introducing Project OCOR OCOR

In this project, instead of regular white or khaki wrapper, a layer of holographic film is applied on the filter portion, so the risks of them being used by birds are speculated to decrease.

Why Textured Holographic Film?

A holographic film reflects the lights in a variety of colors depending on the angle. Moreover, to deteriorate birds’ reaction, a geometric texture that creates new reflective angles might improve the effectiveness.

Is It Toxic?

Hologram stickers may already be the most efficient and cost-effective anti-counterfeiting method available to businesses and are produced using lithographic techniques or by light radiation exposure. However, these holographic filters go into our mouth, so they should not contain any toxic substances.

Recent advancements in technology have led to the development of iridescent films made from wood pulp cellulose, which not only can be used in filters but also colorants in food or cosmetics. 6

Augmented Value

A study indicates that the majority of smokers in Germany do not know that cigarette filters are mainly composed of synthetic material (98% non-biodegradable Cellulose acetate). As a result, they throw the butts away, thinking of it as a decomposable waste due to its look. 7

A reflective iridescent film can also encourage people to dump the filters appropriately, as it would look very synthetic.

We Chose to be irresponsible towards our health and the environment. But we should take Responsibility for the ones who don’t have the Power to Choose.


1. WHO – The environmental and health impacts of tobacco agriculture, cigarette manufacture and consumption – Thomas E Novotny a, Stella Aguinaga Bialous b,Lindsay Burt c, 2015
2. Cigarette butts form a perceptually cryptic component of song thrush (Turdus philomelos) nests BRANISLAV IGIC, PHILLIP CASSEY, 2009
3. There is no such a thing as a free cigarette; lining nests with discarded butts brings short-term benefits, but causes toxic damage M. SUAREZ-RODRIGUEZ & C.MA CIAS GARCIA, 2014
4. The thieving magpie’? No evidence for attraction to shiny objects. Animal Cognition, 2014
5. Solving The Mystery Of The Metallic Sheen Of Fish.” ScienceDaily ,2008
6. Controlled, Bio‐inspired Self‐Assembly of Cellulose‐Based Chiral Reflectors, Ahu Gumrah Dumanli, Gen Kamita, 2014
7. Do people know that cigarette filters are mainly composed of synthetic material? A representative survey of the German population, DANIEL KORTZ, SBARINA KASTAUN, 2020

Featured at 2020 Dubai Design Week, at MENA Grad Show Special