YES Programs



Green Business Start-Up Recycles Cigarette Butts

A screenshot of a TV news segment. Two people sit in a library being interviewed

By Ivan Karadzhov (YES 2019-2020, Bulgaria, placed by ACES in Bangor, WI) 

On February 17, I participated in a news segment on Bulgarian National Television about an entrepreneurial project, created on an accelerator program for start-up business ideas with an orientation to a greener future, better environment, and recycling. The project is called "Bean Bags for the Planet."

A group of people sit outside next to a building. They are in conversation.

The project started during a camp called “Green UP” in Targovishte, Bulgaria. The camp is organized at a facility called, “Botanica Live.” The training facility is used for agricultural purposes including raising vegetables, corn, as well as grapes for wine brewing. It was first constructed to be an internship base for students at the University of Veliko Tarnovo and the Technical University of Varna. Agro-students can go there to work and obtain certificates, work-knowledge and to network with like-minded students. At this specific camp, motivated students come up with business ideas that are sustainable and will likely benefit the environmental situation in their society in an innovative way.

The project started with the following idea: recycling cigarette butts for the valuable material in them. The material that is recycled is used as filling for bean bags. The same concept has been used for years in India to create teddy bears that are selling all around the world. A small company in India is recycling cigarette butts for the cotton in them, cleaning it, reusing the soft fluff used in filters to create 100% clean plush toys filling. All the materials in cigarette butts have some purpose. Tobacco is used to create small cardboard-like feeling squares, that are lit and used as natural repellent against mosquitos. And the most amazing part is that they are odorless, and there is no trait of the tobacco smell that a cigarette produces. 

A screenshot of a TV news segment. Two people sit in a library being interviewed

This project was presented on Bulgarian National Television with b-roll of the collecting of the cigarette butts and later in a lab environment, extracting the soft material from them and cleaning them. A small demo of what the product looks like in the form of a stress ball is shown in the interview. The reason why we were invited to participate in this show on BNT was to showcase successful business ideas and their beginnings. Friends of mine, and of my colleague Kristiana Opreva, have shared the story of our project. Through this sharing, we were then contacted by a journalist to present it, and we both got excited that there was some interest in our project. 

This idea is innovative, and it's oriented towards the call to people to not litter the beaches, nature, or the environment where they live. This world is ours, so we must preserve it in the best way possible. Littering is the biggest environmental threat to the wellbeing of this planet. We must either find a way to stop littering and dispose of junk in a safe manner or recycle it into something useful.