The World’s Biggest Butt Pick Up

Take 3 for the Sea supporter Bruna Pinto Marques from Portugal tells us about an incredible initiative in her country to raise awareness of the harm cigarette butts can do to the environment.   

Can you imagine a mountain made of cigarette butts? Well, that was the outcome of a project that challenged people across Portugal to collect every cigarette butt they found. 

The challenge was simple: gather one million cigarette butts in just one week across the whole country.  That’s how The Biggest Butt Pick Up began. The initiative was organized by the German Andreas Noe, who adopted the name ‘The Trash Traveller’. Andreas moved to Portugal in 2018 to pursue his love of surfing but he soon realised this brought him not only joy but trash, including lots of cigarette butts.  So he traded his biomedical career in Germany to dedicate himself full-time to caring for the ocean, organizing initiatives to promote environmental awareness and encourage people to act for cleaner beaches and a healthier ocean. 

Focusing on creativity and fun, Andreas has organized various campaigns and activities, bringing together more and more people and organizations, regardless of sector, united by a common goal – to protect the ocean.  What an inspiration! 

The Trash Traveller has organised a number of activities, including: 

  • The Plastic Hike 2020: A hike of 832 km along the Portuguese coast that resulted in the collection of 1.6 tonnes of plastic 
  • The Butt Hike 2021: A group of 600 people collected 1.1 million cigarette butts in 2 months along the Portuguese coast 
  • The Trash Cycle 2022: Using a bike built from second-hand parts, Andreas travelled 2370 km in 55 days, collecting all the plastic he found 

Unfortunately, littering is a common practice all over the world. Cigarette butts are among the most toxic and polluting items that are littered. They move around easily because they are small and light. They contain toxic chemicals and microparticles that don’t decompose, and their journey often leads them to the sea where they shed microplastics that remain in the water and can enter the marine and human food chain. 

The fact that cigarette butts are not biodegradable emphasizes the care we must take to prevent them from contaminating the air, soil and water, and ultimately, the human body. and the sustainability of our planet. 

It’s important to change mentalities and behaviors by informing people about the real danger of cigarette butts, and this can be done in a fun and relaxed way! Andreas Noe is proof of that. 

The World’s Biggest Butt Pick Up quickly gained many supporters who contributed to its huge success and dissemination: it brought together schools, municipalities, and organizations with a common purpose. 

On the last day of the campaign, the cigarette butts were displayed in the heart of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, accompanied by music and good vibes, showing that the effort was worthwhile. Many curious people sought to learn more and showed great concern about, and empathy for, the cause. 

Activities like this show the impact that small daily actions can have and how we can positively influence each other. Who would have thought that the cigarette butts we see on the ground could form so large a mountain? What if every country had someone who dedicated their days to raising awareness and caring for the environment like Andreas, the Trash Traveller? What if we all allowed ourselves to be influenced by behaviors like this? 

We can all collaborate in protecting and preserving the environment! 

Little acts really matter!