TEL AVIV: Julian Melcer is cleaning up a Tel Aviv beach, one cigarette butt at a time.
Prowling the shore, a large plastic bag in hand, the 26-year-old Israeli treats every day like Earth Day, picking up butts and selling small pouches he calls pocket ashtrays to smokers to deter them from littering.
"I'm here to protect the world," he said. "It's burning in my soul, it's burning in my bones, it's burning in my eyes when I see trash on the beach."
Melcer said it's also a living, earning him about US$3,000 to US$4,000 a month during the summer from the sale of the pocket ashtrays for US$6 each.
The Tel Aviv resident has been at it for three years, starting out by creating artwork from butts he collected and then finding a way to recycle his large haul.
Stuffing butt-filled plastic bags into boxes, Melcer mails them to the NoButts organisation in Ireland, which extracts their plastic filters for repurposing.
He estimates that he and others in his volunteer group in Israel have picked up about one million butts.
On its website, NoButts says cigarette filters are the "most toxic single-use plastic on the planet". It estimates that some six trillion butts are littered worldwide every year.
"It's super important because cigarettes hurt nature, they hurt the beach, and I love the beach - it's my home," Melcer said about his campaign.
(Reporting by Amir Cohen, Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)