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This Interactive Installation Focuses On The Smallest Biggest Polluter Out There, The Cigarette Butt

Pollutive Ends (2019) / Thijs Biersteker

The cigarette butt is one of the biggest underestimated polluter of our soils, waters and oceans. This interactive art installation created by environmental artist Thijs Biersteker makes the impact of one cigarette butt visible in a stunning but shocking way.

Researchers have uncovered that 1 cigarette butt pollutes 500 liters of water a day. 1 liter of water-soaked with butts will kill 50% of all small ocean creatures in it. That is 3.4 ml of deadly water – a second coming from only 1 cigarette butt.  



With the art installation Pollutive Ends the artist Thijs Biersteker shows the impact of 1 cigarette butt on our environment and waters. The impact is made visible by moving small elements of real polluted water hypnotically right in front of the visitors’ eyes through an intricate tube system. The algorithmic driven pumping system calculates the number of visitors that are in the museum, the likelihood that they smoke and the amount of pollution that they would generate. 

 Pollutive Ends (2019) / Thijs Biersteker

One cigarette but pollutes 3.4 milliliters of water per minute to a deadly level for small sea and ocean creatures. In 2006 researchers from the US Environmental Protection Agency discovered that when you put a cigarette butt in 1 liter of water for one day, the toxic waste it creates will kill 50% of all small sea creatures and fish in the water. These filters emit cadmium, lead, arsenic and zinc and the bits of tobacco left in the filter emit tar, nicotine, pesticides and other chemicals.

 Pollutive Ends (2019) / Thijs Biersteker

The idea for the installation is based on the research of the US Environmental Protection Agency,  Surfrider Foundation and the World Health Organisation,” says Biersteker.As an artist, I don’t only hope this artwork creates awareness for the 65% of people littering the filters in nature, but mainly to show the industry that they should start innovating their way out of this. Or just lose these pollutive ends completely.”

Pollutive Ends is part of the exhibition ‘Continuous Refle(a)ction”, an exhibition on eco-art, environmental protection and sustainability initiated by the Riverside Art Museum and Morcreate, supported by Wild Aid and the Alashan Foundation.