Butt it - Bin it
It is estimated that around seven billion cigarette butts are littered nationally each year, with cigarette butts consistently being the most littered item in the Keep Australia Beautiful National Litter Index representing almost 50 per cent of all litter items.
Addressing cigarette butt litter is one of Council’s priorities. Comprehensive cigarette litter audits have been completed which has identified litter hotspots throughout the municipality. These results have informed Council’s Cigarette Butt Litter Reduction Project. The project involves implementation of best practice cigarette butt litter reduction activities using a variety of education, enforcement and infrastructure elements across Williamstown, Altona, Laverton and Newport until July 2017.
The project will use a variety of cigarette litter reduction activities including cigarette butt bins, footpath decals, smoker information packs, personal ashtrays and incentives. Partnerships within Council and external are important to the success of the project and the ultimate aim of reducing cigarette butt litter in the municipality. Council is working with the Victorian Government, community groups and local traders to develop and implement initiatives.
The project was implemented in August 2016 in Altona and at the Warmies in Newport, and now has been rolled out in Williamstown and Laverton before wrapping up at the end of July.
Why are cigarette butts an issue?
It is difficult for the stormwater management systems to capture cigarette butts. Therefore most are swept directly into our waterways, Port Phillip Bay and the ocean. According to Clean Up Australia, 95 per cent of all litter on beaches, including cigarette butts, comes from suburban streets through the stormwater system. This litter reduces water quality and potentially harms our precious marine life.
Birds and aquatic animals can mistake the cigarette butts as food, resulting in serious digestive problems that may lead to death. Cigarette butts have been found in the stomachs of young birds, sea turtles and other marine creatures.
Another concern is that toxic chemicals such as lead and cadmium, which are trapped in the cigarette filter, can leach out into water. Within just one hour of contact with water, the chemicals begin to leach into the aquatic environment and when there are a high number of cigarette butts, can threaten the wellbeing of marine life.
Cigarette butt litter detracts from the beautiful environment that exists within Hobsons Bay. They also have the potential to cause harm to human health, including that of small children.
The cost of collecting litter from the ground is predominantly through Council’s street sweeping and stormwater management systems. Providing these services is a large expense to Council. If litter, including cigarette butt litter were reduced, the cost to Council and its community would be reduced.
So what can I do?
Always dispose of cigarette butts responsibly. You can do this by using a permanent cigarette butt bin, a regular public rubbish bin, using a personal ashtray that can be collected at Customer Service at the Civic Centre and making sure you stub out the embers.
Businesses and other organisations looking for permanent cigarette butt litter solutions can contact a local hardware store or a bin supplier or manufacturer for a range of products.
You can also help to educate those around you such as friends, family and co-workers about the impacts of littering cigarette butts and encourage them do the right thing and put it in a bin.
The Cigarette Butt Litter Reduction Program has been made possible through funding from the Victorian Government's Metropolitan Local Government Waste and Resource Recovery Fund.