Cigarette butts (CBs) are the most common type of litter on earth, with an estimated 4.5 trillion discarded annually. Apart from being unsightly, CBs pose a serious threat to living organisms and ecosystem health when discarded in the environment because they are toxic to microbes, insects, fish and mammals. In spite of the CB toxic hazard, no studies have addressed the effects of environmental conditions on CB decomposition rate. In this study we investigate the interactive effects of substrate fertility and N transfer dynamics on CB decomposition rate and carbon quality changes. We carried out an experiment using smoked CBs and wood sticks, used as a slow decomposing standard organic substrate, incubated in both laboratory and field conditions for two years. CB carbon quality changes during decomposition was assessed by C-13 CPMAS NMR. Our experiment confirmed the low degradation rate of CBs which, on average, lost only 37.8% of their initial mass after two years of decomposition. Although a net N transfer occurred from soil to CBs, contrary to our hypothesis, mass loss in the medium-term (two years) was unaffected by N availability in the surrounding substrate. The opposite held for wood sticks, in agreement with the model that N-rich substrates promote the decomposition of other N-poor natural organic materials with a high C/N ratio. As regards CB chemical quality, after two years of decomposition C-13 NMR spectroscopy highlighted very small changes in C quality that are likely to reflect a limited microbial attack.

Cigarette butt decomposition and associated chemical changes assessed by13C cpmas NMR

INCERTI, Guido;
2015

Abstract

Cigarette butts (CBs) are the most common type of litter on earth, with an estimated 4.5 trillion discarded annually. Apart from being unsightly, CBs pose a serious threat to living organisms and ecosystem health when discarded in the environment because they are toxic to microbes, insects, fish and mammals. In spite of the CB toxic hazard, no studies have addressed the effects of environmental conditions on CB decomposition rate. In this study we investigate the interactive effects of substrate fertility and N transfer dynamics on CB decomposition rate and carbon quality changes. We carried out an experiment using smoked CBs and wood sticks, used as a slow decomposing standard organic substrate, incubated in both laboratory and field conditions for two years. CB carbon quality changes during decomposition was assessed by C-13 CPMAS NMR. Our experiment confirmed the low degradation rate of CBs which, on average, lost only 37.8% of their initial mass after two years of decomposition. Although a net N transfer occurred from soil to CBs, contrary to our hypothesis, mass loss in the medium-term (two years) was unaffected by N availability in the surrounding substrate. The opposite held for wood sticks, in agreement with the model that N-rich substrates promote the decomposition of other N-poor natural organic materials with a high C/N ratio. As regards CB chemical quality, after two years of decomposition C-13 NMR spectroscopy highlighted very small changes in C quality that are likely to reflect a limited microbial attack.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11390/1104418
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