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Tackling a toxic timebomb
Cigarette butts account for 66% of all litter and can be found in every corner Great Britain - on our streets, in our countryside, our parks and beaches, our waterways and, finally, in the sea. In fact, new research for Keep Britain Tidy reveals that, right now, there are 2.4 million cigarette butts littered on England's high streets, despite the efforts of local authorities to clean them up on a daily basis.
A core reason for this is that many smokers incorrectly believe that cigarette butts are biodegradable. They are not. A cigarette butt can take 14 years to break apart, its toxins seeping into the earth.
British Cleaning Council member Keep Britain Tidy was established more than 60 years ago with a remit to campaign to reduce litter in this country and the issue of cigarette litter simply cannot wait - it is a toxic timebomb that is doing damage to our environment every day.
Clearing up these butts costs a huge amount of money - and that's only the ones that can be cleaned up. Hundreds of thousands 'escape'; they are dropped in areas that aren't regularly cleansed, go down drains, pollute our watercourses and, ultimately, enter the marine environment. The only long-term solution is to stop people dropping them in the first place.
It is for this reason that Keep Britain Tidy has developed a new campaign 'Change starts with you', which is now live on billboards across the country, with a following campaign including TV and radio, from mid-December.
The campaign aims to inform smokers about the environmental harms of cigarette litter and initial research suggests that it will be effective in changing smokers' littering behaviours.
Keep Britain Tidy has advocated for and will continue to advocate for a comprehensive, mandatory extended producer responsibility scheme for smoking-related litter that recognises the true environmental and economic costs of littered cigarette butts. However, every day millions of cigarette butts are littered, and every day that we don't act, millions more join them. This problem cannot wait for EPR to start to tackle it - we need to start now.
17th November 2022