The present application claims the benefit of co-pending U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/319,537, filed Mar. 31, 2010, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
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The present invention relates generally to a biodegradable cigarette filter and more specifically, to a non-synthetic, natural cigarette filter which contains seeds.
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Popular smoking articles have undergone significant development in the past 50 years with a recent increased awareness of limiting consumption of chemicals which can impede the emotional enjoyment of smoking cigarettes or other products. In addressing the desire for an enhanced smoking experience, much research and development has centered around the cigarette filter which currently primarily serves the purpose of filtering the smoke generated from burning tobacco. Typically, a filter has a filter tow made from plasticized cellulose acetate and can also include polyhydric alcohols, and the tow is wrapped with an inner and outer layer of cigarette paper. The inner layer is known as the plug wrap and the outer wrapping layer is known as the tipping paper. The description of cigarettes and the various components thereof are set forth in Tobacco Production, Chemistry and Technology, Davis et al. (Eds.) (1999). A cigarette is smoked by a consumer lighting one end and burning the tobacco rod end of the cigarette, opposite from the filter. The smoker then receives mainstream smoke into his mouth by drawing the tobacco smoke through the filter on the opposite end of the cigarette.
Certain cigarettes incorporate filter elements having absorbent materials dispersed therein, such as activated carbon or charcoal materials in particulate or granular form. For example, a cigarette filter can possess multiple segments, and at least one of those segments can comprise particles of high carbon-content materials. Various types of filters incorporating charcoal particles or activated carbon types of materials are set forth in U.S. Pat. No. 2,881,770 to Touey: U.S. Pat. No. 3,101,723 to Seligman et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 3,236,244 to Irby et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 3,311,519 to Touey et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 3,347,247 to Lloyd; U.S. Pat. No. 3,349,780 to Sublett et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 3,370,595 to Davis et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 3,413,382 to Sublett et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 3,602,231 to Dock; U.S. Pat. No. 3,972,335 to Tigglebeck et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 5,360,023 to Blakley et al.; and U.S. Pat. No. 6,537,186 to Veluz; U.S. Pat Publication No. 2007/0056600 to Coleman, Ill et al.; PCT WO 2006/064371 to Banerjea et al. and PCT WO 2006/051422 to Jupe et al.; which are incorporated herein by reference.
Granules of carbonaceous material can be incorporated into the filter via “dalmation” types of filter regions using the general types of techniques used for traditional dalmation filter manufacture. Prior art has included granules of carbonaceous material that is incorporated into “cavity” types of filter regions using known techniques for producing “cavity” filter manufacture. However, many techniques, well known in the art, are often rudimentary in that particulates or granules of carbonaceous material roughly inserted into the filter element as either a loose powder or a slurry, a process which is often inconsistent and inefficient.
In other areas of the art, cellulose acetate is known and widely used in cigarette filter material. However, such material is only biodegradable in certain chemical forms, such as in the acetic acid ester form of cellulose. In most forms the biodegradability of cellulose acetate remains relatively low. Further, the biodegradation character of cellulose acetate is most often dependent on the degree of substitution, or the number of acetyl groups per glucose unit of the cellulose acetate molecular structure. For example, if the degree of substitution of cellulose acetate is decreased, the biodegradation rate of cellulose acetate is increased.
Other inventions have attempted to address the problem of non-biodegradable materials in filter cigarettes. In some studies, investigators have sought to introduce micro-organisms which act to accelerate the degradation process. For example, Japanese Patent Application KOKAI Publication No. 8-140654 discloses the method of coating the surface of the cellulose fiber such as wood pulp with a cellulose ester such as cellulose acetate. In such methods however, the biodegradation rate of the entire filter is determined by the biodegradation rate of the material that can be easily biodegraded and, thus, the biodegradation rate of the cellulose acetate itself is not increased.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,739,344 describes a biodegradable cellulose acetate filter, which purports to provide excellent biodegradability which includes a “biodegradation promoting agent”. Specifically, the invention describes a cellulose acetate structure comprising at least one compound selected from the group consisting of a salt of an oxygen acid of phosphorus, an ester of an oxygen acid of phosphorus or a salt thereof, carbonic acid and a salt thereof. Hence, the manufacturing process is extremely complicated and requires significant investment in set up and capital expenses. Further, such methods do not address the problem of introducing chemical contaminants such as non-biodegradable cellulose compounds and variants thereof into the environment.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,062,228 discloses biodegradable filter material and method for its manufacture. Specifically, the patent describes a biodegradable filter tow or filter material prepared from renewable raw materials for use as a tobacco filter element of cigarettes. Further, it describes a method of preparing such a filter wherein fibers, films or foams are prepared in an extrusion method from biopolymer based on thermoplastic starch. However, as discussed, such methods require an inordinate up front expense in manufacturing costs with methods of preparation often complex and require significant chemical intermediates for production. Moreover, such methods also do not address the issue of introduction of complex chemical compounds into the environment which leads to pollution.
As such, there exists a need for a filter and methods for producing a more environmentally friendly cigarette filter to assist in decreasing pollution and litter from cigarette filters which currently employ use of chemicals and materials that are synthetic, non-biodegradable and harmful to smokers and the environment.
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OF THE INVENTION
According to one embodiment, a biodegradable cigarette filter is provided which contains seeds and which comprises a filter tow with at least one layer of filter wrapper paper surrounding the tow. The seeds may be located in the filter tow, in the wrapper paper, or both. The filter may have two separate wrapper layers, comprising an inner layer or plug wrap paper and an outer layer or tipping paper of filter wrapper paper. In one embodiment, the seeds are located in both the filter tow and one or both layers of filter wrapper paper surrounding the filter tow. The seeds allow germination of plants when the filter is discarded into a soil medium. The tow may comprise a mixture consisting of hemp, cotton or paper, and a bonding agent. In one embodiment, the filter utilizes a starch solution of flour and water which act as a thickening and bonding agent, while the mixture of hemp and cotton or paper act as a filtering matrix for the cigarette smoke when consumed by a user. In one embodiment, one or both filter wrapper layers are of biodegradable non-acetate paper embedded with plantable seeds on the outer surface, inner surface, or both, or seeds may be located between the paper layers.
The cigarette filter is 100% biodegradable and non-synthetic, with no chemical additives. When discarded into a soil medium, the seeds embedded in the filter can grow to produce various plants, depending on which seeds are embedded. Seeds located within the filter tow break the filter apart, thus accelerating degradation from the inside. Seeds located within the filter tow can be of a larger diameter than those used within the inner and outer layers of filter wrapper paper, when seeds are located throughout the entire filter. Seeds located within one or both filter wrapper layers break the filter plug wrap and tipping paper apart which then releases the filter tow within, accelerating degradation from an outside in approach. Seeds located within the tipping paper and plug wrap are located outside of the smoke column. Types of seed located within or between the plug wrap and tipping paper layers include smaller diameter seeds or varieties that would be damaged by direct interaction with smoke, impede smoke draw through the filter, or alter smoke taste.
The cigarette filter is of a non-synthetic, bio-degradable material that decreases the global environmental impact of the carbon “footprint” of cigarettes, and may assist in providing germination of plants in the environment, further promoting carbon sequestration. This cigarette filter biodegrades at a faster rate and can help to reduce the prevalent problem of litter created by known synthetic, non-biodegradable cigarette filters in the environment.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
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FIG. 1 is perspective cross-sectional view of a cigarette including a first embodiment of a biodegradable cigarette filter;
FIG. 1A is a cutaway view of part of the filter of FIG. 1 illustrating a modified filter with two wrapper layers;
FIG. 2 is a longitudinal cross-sectional view of the cigarette of FIG. 1 including the biodegradable cigarette filter; and
FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view on the lines 3-3 of FIG. 2.
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OF THE INVENTION
Embodiments described herein provide a biodegradable filter for cigarettes that significantly decreases the amount of litter and pollution in the environment due to the brief period of time required for the filters to break down and decompose, as well a method of manufacture for producing the filters. Embodiments described herein further provide a filter that, when discarded, acts to germinate plants into the environment into which it is discarded.
After reading this description it will become apparent to one skilled in the art how to implement the invention in various alternative embodiments and alternative applications. However, although various embodiments of the present invention will be described herein, it is understood that these embodiments are presented by way of example only, and not limitation. As such, this detailed description of various alternative embodiments should not be construed to limit the scope or breadth of the present invention.
FIGS. 1 to 3 illustrate a cigarette 20 incorporating a first embodiment of a filter 10 at one end. The remainder of the cigarette contains cigarette tobacco 2 surrounded by an elongated cylindrical tube 1 of cigarette paper. The filter 10 is adhered to the remainder of the cigarette and comprises two parts, specifically an interior filter body or filter tow 3 of filter material and one or more outer wrapper layers 4. The filter material 3 includes a number of ingredients including a biodegradable and compostable combination of hemp, cotton and/or paper fibers bound together with a starch solution. In one embodiment, wrapper layers 4 comprise an inner wrapper layer or plug wrap 4A and an outer wrapper layer or tipping paper 4B. The paper is wrapped around the hemp/cotton material 3 and glued along the longitudinal seam 8 using any appropriate liquid starch adhesive. The filter has recessed ends 7.
As best illustrated in FIGS. 2 and 3, one or both outer wrapper layers 4 contain small diameter plantable seeds 6 in one embodiment of the filter. The seeds may be provided on the outer surface, the inner surface, or both, or may be located between the wrapper layers. Alternatively, the filter may have a single outer wrapper layer which optionally contains seeds. In the illustrated embodiment, the filter tow 3 also contains larger diameter plantable seeds 5 which are encapsulated within the interior of the filter tow, as illustrated in FIGS. 1 to 3. Seeds 5 can be of any variety appropriate for containment in the filter. However, inclusion of seeds in the filter tow 3 is optional, and seeds 5 may be eliminated in alternative embodiments, with seeds 6 provided in one or both outer wrapper layers 4 only.
In one embodiment, the filter tow 3 comprises a mixture of hemp and a second fibrous material such as cotton or paper, and a binding agent. The ratio of the ingredients in the filter tow can be changed to accommodate less or more filtering of the cigarette smoke. As envisioned herein, a ratio of 25 to 75% hemp/75% to 25% cotton or paper fiber is used to prepare the filter tow. In one embodiment, a mixture of flour and water is used in the production process as a binding and thickening agent to provide pliability, as described in more detail below. The size and shape of the filter body or filter tow may be the same as a standard cigarette filter as to accommodate current cigarette specifications and existing manufacturing processes.
In one embodiment, the filter tow is produced from a mixture of de-gummed hemp with cotton or paper and flour and water as the binding and thickening agent. Any appropriate liquid starch as known in the art can be used in lieu of the flour and water mixture. In order to produce the filter, 25 to 75% de-gummed hemp is placed into a blending apparatus. Thereafter, 25 to 75% cotton or paper is added and blended with the hemp until the mixture of fibers appears to be uniform. In another embodiment, cotton or paper, or both cotton and paper are mixed with the hemp. After blending, 0.25 to 2.5 teaspoons of flour is added to 1 to 4 cups of water and thoroughly mixed. After mixing, the hemp based mixture is immersed into the flour/water mixture.
Alternatively, a starch-based mixture may be employed in place of the flour/water mixture. To prepare the starch solution, a ratio of 0.1 to 1 cup cornstarch or cornstarch-like product is added to every 0.5 to 2 cups of water, followed by mixing. While continuing to mix the solution, 0.5 to 5 cups of 100 degrees Celsius or higher water is added. Other starch based mixtures as known in the art may be employed.