Week 4: Cigarette Butts

The UK fixed penalty fine for a littered cigarette butt is £75. It seems many people are taking their chance when around 200 million cigarettes are discarded daily in the UK alone.

Cigarette litter accounts for one in every five items collected on clean ups across the world ranking it number 1 on the most littered items list. Because of that, we really need to wonder, why is it happening and what can we do to stop cigarette litter completely.

Whether you smoke or not, nobody really enjoys cigarettes. Otherwise, we would probably take the time to put them in the ashtrays of our cars rather than throwing them out the window while driving or maybe we would place them in our pockets until we reach the next bin so that we can dispose of them properly. But why would we want to do that when we know they would ruin our clothes or make our clean cars smell bad? It makes more sense to throw them on the floor and make them somebody else’s problem doesn’t it?

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group of cigarette butts.

 

Cigarette litter is a huge threat to the environment; not just in terms of wildlife mistaking the butts for food and dying but also because cigarettes which have not been properly put out are the result of thousands of forests fires every year which are putting people, animals, livelihoods and everything in its path in serious danger.

The average cigarette weighs around 1 gram, that means the finished end weighs no more than .2 of a gram; when you consider this fact, it’s hardly surprising to think that billions of cigarette butts are making their way into our oceans, stream and rivers. This isn’t good for our health when you consider those toxins are coming through the taps we turn on. To think you tell your children the dangers of smoking when really they could be drinking the toxins every time we turn the tap on is rather worrying.

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There needs to be a serious change in the way we see cigarette litter. Clearly a £75 fine is not enough as people are still taking the chance daily as they know the probability of being cause is low.

While governments propose tax increase to help cure the cost of cleaning up litter, here are some effective initiatives that have been put in place to reduce cigarette litter which I think are more sustainable;

 

Cigarette pit falls

 

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www.nobutts.co.uk allowing people and companies to place these bins in common smoking areas.

 

Here, one company has started promoting cigarette reduction by creating bins which people and companies can place bins in common littered areas where people passing can throw their cigarettes? Seems ideal! You can still throw your cigarettes on the floor, but you are actually throwing them to be recycled rather than harming the environment, and you don’t even have to go out of your way!

 

 

Rewarding people who collect cigarette litter

 

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Would you be likely to give up some of your time if you could receive money for picking up littered cigarette ends? Many people across the world do this for free because they have a passion for outdoors and would like future generations to have the chance to see the outdoors like we can but other people would prefer a physical reward for their time.

That’s why Wellington City councillers in New Zealand introduced a scheme where people can collect littered cigarette butts, take them to a place to be weighed where they will cashed in people to do as they wish with their earnings.

From what I have read here, the scheme came about to reduce the amount of beggars in the inner city which seems quite unethical as it is a way of brushing a serious problem under the carpet. Saying that, I still like the concept and believe that corporations as well as other governments allowing this could create similar schemes to encourage a reduction in cigarette litter.

 

 

Cigarette poll bins

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Image showing a bin where smokers can vote their answer by disposing cigarettes properly.

Now this is my personal favourite. One clever company, BallotBin, have creatively made bins which have been designed as polls where people vote by placing their discarded cigarette butts. For me, I think this is a very clever of not only getting people to see the amount of cigarette butts that are discarded but it is also a clever way of stopping people to actually finish their cigarette and dispose of the butt in a fun way; hopefully next time that person who needs to discard their cigarette butt will do so correctly.

 

This week I have not created any particular item from cigarette butts however I have been in contact with my local MP who forwarded my message on to the Director of Environment and Leisure in my local town of Blackburn with Darwen; it is my aim to create bins that will promote cigarette litter by also asking people questions where people vote with their cigarette butts; I will intend to make these bins from littered aluminium cans rather than using new materials. I don’t want to make these though until I have places where I know they will be put to use; the director told me via e-mail that they will discuss my plans with the recycling officer and come back to me shortly so I look forward to that.

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Anyway, the next time you go to throw your butt on the floor, take 30 seconds to walk to the bin because chances are, there will be one close by.

Week 1 – Plastic containers 

Week 2 – Plastic Bags 

Week 3 – Plastic bottle caps (This coming Sunday I will use littered plastic bottle caps)

Week 4 – Cigarette butts 

Week 5 – Aluminium

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Is there any point?

According to the Litter Strategy published in April 2017, over £750m has been spent cleaning up street litter in the UK in just a single year. To put that number into perspective here are some of the budget plans for 2017;

  • £100m to place more GPs in accident and emergency departments for next winter
  • New funding totalling £20m to support the campaign against violence against women and girls
  • £540m to support the growth of electric cars, including more charging points
  • £40m teacher training fund for underperforming schools in England. Worth £1,000 per teacher

 

 

litter 2

 

Just at a glance, it’s not surprising that 81% of people are angry and frustrated by the amount of litter lying all over the country. When you look at the budget plans for this year, an extra £750m would make a significant difference to services we can all relate to and much rely on such as education, health and green energy.

 

litter 3

 

Reducing litter pollution is something that can benefit the whole country no matter where you are, what you do for a living or the views you may have. Saying that, creating a clean environment shouldn’t be an endless battle, expensive or even stop us doing the things we enjoy.

Instead, it should be fun, save money and make a real difference that inspires every generation including the next so here are three simple solutions that will help for a cleaner environment;

  1. Make the change from single use plastic bags to bags for life.

The average family takes home around 1500 single use plastic bags each year. When you consider those family shops to the supermarket, gifts you buy for your friends and those snacks you buy when you go to the petrol station, it’s not surprising that 1500 soon adds up over the year; when you consider the fact that single use plastic bags are only used for an average of 12 minutes, we need to ask… Is it worth the damage it’s having on the environment?

Fact: The amount of petroleum used to make one plastic bag would reportedly power a car 115 metres. 14 plastic bags = 1 mile.

 

How does a bag for life help you?

  • Using a bag for life could save you over £70 a year and that soon adds up if you are taking home over 1500 single use plastic bags every year.
  • It looks better; Have a look around and pick a bag that represents you. Something that you value and makes you smile. Also, bags for life are not huge meaning you will probably only fit in the necessities rather than impulse spending and that can surely only be a good thing can’t it?

How does a bag for life benefit the environment?

  • 100,000 marine animals alone are killed by plastic bags annually; it seems unnecessary considering we only use them for an average of 12 minutes.
  • Only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled meaning the rest end up in landfill or in the environment. Plastic bags can never be fully broken down meaning the toxins and microplastics could end up in our drinking water; by making the change, it’s going to produce cleaner drinking water which can only be a good thing.

Where to buy?

After a quick search on google, here are a few sites where you can pick up bags for life with many different designs;

https://ethical.market/women/ethical-bags-purses/ethical-tote-bags.html?dir=asc&order=price – (Range of ethical bags £5.50 being the lowest price)

https://thecleverbaggers.co.uk/cotton-carrier-bags-with-short-handles-6-pack (£5.76 for a set of 6 multi-coloured cotton shopping bags)

2) Get children involved.

If you have children and they are in school, then chances are that they will already be aware of litter pollution from teachers talking about this and getting them involved with helping to keep the playground clean. As adults, it’s probably become part of the daily routine for us to see litter in the street, canals, rivers and every other place it really shouldn’t be. The only way that we can reduce litter is by getting everybody involved and that includes children so the next time you are at a place with your child or children and litter stands out, see what your children think of the issue;

“What do you think of all that rubbish over there?”

“What does all that rubbish over there do?”

“Is that rubbish harming anybody?”

These are just a few questions you could ask to get them thinking but when young people talk about these issues, that’s when we can make a massive difference because it’s then when more people pay attention.

3) Dispose of cigarette ends.

So simple but again, it makes a massive difference. Something so small is having huge impact on the environment right now. Dropping one may seem insignificant but when you combine that with the amount consumed over a year… it equates to over 200 tons of cigarette butts in the UK being littered every year. Don’t worry though… it’s not just the UK guilty of this. In fact, globally, approximately 4.3 trillion cigarette butts are littered every year. Nobody wants to be the reason why a leatherback turtle chokes on one of these so just take an extra 30 seconds to dispose of the butt properly. Plus it avoids any £75 on the spot fines for throwing them on the floor (think how many cigarettes you could smoke with £75!).

Fact: 80% of butts on the ground find their way into our water systems and detract from the quality of our drinking water. 

 

On a brighter note… Christmas is coming! This is another time for you to be creative in the gifts that you buy for loved ones. I am creating handmade drink coasters which have been made partly or entirely from waste materials to promote for a clean, healthy & sustainable environment along with waste cardboard for the packaging of the products. If you haven’t bought somebody a Christmas gift yet, click the link below to find some small gifts and get them in time for Christmas with free postage to anywhere in Europe.

Click here for handmade gifts