The Roach Tail: A Board Made From 10,000 Cigarette Butts

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When asked to repurpose used materials into something new, no one thought of “upcycling” discarded cigarette butts – until this Californian surfer and industrial designer came along. In the 3rd annual Creators and Innovators Upcycle Contest, Taylor Lane wowed everyone with “The Roach Tail” – a surfboard made from 10,000 used cigarettes.

Taylor Lane’s The Roach Tail | Photo Credit: seabreeze.com.au

Lane explained, “The premise of the contest is to create some article of surf craft out of up-cycled material aka trash. So we decided littered cigarette butts off the beach would be a good place to start. 10,000 butts later and a labor of love yielded this.”

Of course, creating the board took a lot of work. In order to gather enough materials for The Roach Tail, he and his filmmaker friend, Ben Judkins, spent the entire summer participating in every beach clean-up they could find – picking up cigarettes from beaches, gutters, sidewalks and parking lots. They also had to ask board shops for EPS foam and fiberglass cut-offs, fish markets for styrofoam, and gather old fabrics, which they then epoxied with a special soybean resin.

The top & bottom layers of butts glued in | Photo Credit: Instagram

When he first took The Roach Tail out for a surf, the board ended up absorbing a lot of water and sinking. But because he badly wanted the board to be rideable, Lane reshaped it, stripped off the wet layer of butts, and replaced them with new ones. After 200 hours and a couple more failed attempts, he had in his hand a 17-pound board that paddles easily and goes fast down-the-line. Needless to say, his unusual “cancer stick” swept away the crowd and won first prize.

But more than just nabbing the top prize, Lane achieved so much more. His cigarette butt twinny started a discussion and it brought more awareness to an already longstanding problem. Statistics alone show that 1.69 billion pounds of cigarette butts wind up as trash every year. Though smoking is banned on some beaches, this poisonous waste still finds its way into our oceans, leaching toxic chemicals like lead and arsenic, which are harmful to both marine life and humans.

A post shared by Hanna Yamamoto (@hanziibar) on

And for the longest time, we have been looking for ways to minimize (if not completely eliminate) pollution. Luckily for us, there are more people like Lane who are actively looking for solutions. Remember the world’s first compostable and recyclable surfboard? The brains behind this surf craft used eutrophic algae, plastic water bottles, and other sustainable materials to create a board that was not only rideable but was also ocean-friendly.

“Looking at this board is like looking at an example of what we need to do to grasp this issue of ocean pollution. It’s a hugely complex problem with many facets to it, but there are also a lot of great solutions,” Lane explained.

At the moment, our ocean is free of 10,000 cigarette butts thanks to Taylor Lane. And if more initiatives like this are supported by the entire surfing community, we are looking at a future with cleaner and safer surfing habitats for us wave riders to enjoy.

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