A retired pharmacist is hoping to open a gallery to display artwork made from some of the 120,000 discarded cigarette butts he has collected from Blackpool streets as part of a one-man clean-up campaign.
Egyptian-born Negweny El Assal has been going out daily over the last three months picking up cigarette ends thrown on the ground and says he can easily collect 3,000 in an hour.
He has then transformed them into framed mosaics which he hopes to exhibit in premises on Central Drive as part of what would also be an educational initiative to persuade people to give up smoking.
The project could also help meet stricter new European rules on the disposal of cigarette ends which are a plastic polluter.
Negweny, of Palatine Road, said: “My gallery would be for an exhibition of my art and also so people could learn what is in a cigarette and hopefully that would convince them not to smoke.
“They will see that it has an affect on their body and that’s why they might be suffering from asthma or cannot concentrate.”
He also hopes his campaign will help clean up the streets, and aims to supply 1,400 wall-mounted bins free of charge to premises to encourage smokers not to drop their used cigarettes on the floor.
He said: “I go out every day to collect cigarette butts from Central Drive and the town centre, and I’ve collected about 120,000 in three months. I do it all as a volunteer, and get a positive response from people. My target is to eliminate every cigarette butt from the streets of Blackpool and Blackpool will lead the world showing how it can be done.”
Negweny, who is mainly based in Luxembourg, said he chose Blackpool for his project because it attracts millions of visitors each year who he hopes he can encourage to stop smoking.
He also hopes to play a part in changes set to be enforced by European legislation in relation to the disposal of cigarette butts, which contain plastic, through his company Cigarette Waste Management Ltd.
In future cigarette producers will have to pay for the clean-up of littered cigarettes butts and for awareness-raising campaigns.
Negweny hopes his pilot project in Blackpool will demonstrate to tobacco firms what can be done to tackle the problem.
He said: “Tobacco product filters containing plastic are the second most littered single-use plastic.
“People who smoke right up to the filter don’t realise they are smoking plastic, hazardous materials.
“The plastic also gets into the environment, for example seagulls pick up cigarette butts and use them to make their nests. But they are toxic. By coming to my exhibition and seeing the evidence before their eyes, I hope it will encourage people not to smoke.”
He also hopes to establish links between Blackpool and universities in Cairo and Luxembourg to carry out research.
Negweny’s artwork includes a skull picture comprising 7,500 cigarette ends, as well as images of the pyramids. a sunrise and a donkey.
A no-smoking sign has been made using old roll-ups and cigarette filters, comparing used and unused filters to show the impact of smoking.
He has applied to Blackpool Council for permission to use a former bank, most recently used as a solicitor’s office, at 100 Central Drive as a gallery, museum and education centre.
++Anyone who wishes to have one of the free bins can contact Negweny by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He is also looking for free storage space for his collection of cigarette butts.