Cigarette filters as raw material for birdhouses and knitwear

Annually, an average smoker throws 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds) of cigarette filters onto the street. In an attempt to make smokers aware of their throw-away behaviour, designer Isaac Monté created two projects in which cigarette filters are used as resource: birdhouses and knitwear.

Because of synthetic fibres used in the filters, they do not decompose, but only fall apart slowly into tiny fibres, which can take up to 15 years. While about 80 per cent of the filters is cleaned up before that time, some are eaten by birds and other animals, which can result in death.

However, while birds sometimes confuse cigarette filters for food, they also use the butts to build their nests. The synthetic fibres inside the filters keep the eggs warm. In addition, the nicotine keeps parasites out of the nest.

This inspired Monté in 2013 to create prefab birdhouses, made entirely out of cigarette butts. In his project Filter Factory, he created a machine in which smokers could dispose their filters. The butts are then visibly shredded. They are melted in a waffle iron-like device and pressed into the shape of a birdhouse. It takes 300 filters to create one birdhouse.

In 2017, Monté once again upcycled cigarette filters, in a project called Filter Knitwear. The butts are shredded and spun into yarn. This yarn was used to knit a hat and a scarf, which are on display in the city of Leeuwarden, the Netherlands. For the scarf, about 11,400 filters were used and for the hat around 5,300. The project was commissioned by CELTH (Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality), and Stenden Hogeschool in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands.

Want to see the knitwear in real life? Visit Material Xperience 2018! For a free ticket, click here.

Photos: Isaac Monté