What’s the problem?
Cigarette butts are the biggest plastic polluter – they do not biodegrade
Cigarette butts travel from street drains into rivers and the sea
Cigarette butts harm wildlife that mistake the butts as food
Cigarette butts can take anywhere from 18 months to 15 years to breakdown, depending on conditions. As the filters in cigarettes contain a form of plastic, cellulose acetate, it is a very slow process to degrade in the environment.
Cigarette butts are often dropped along road sides or down alley ways, and as they are small and light, easily get washed down the drain. Surface water drains, don’t contain filters that prevent cigarette butts from passing through, and so the butts can directly enter into our waterways, polluting our rivers, lakes and the sea.
Cigarette filters contain toxins and heavy metals that, if littered onto the ground and end up down street drains, can travel into rivers and the sea and leach toxic chemicals into water sources. One study found that a single cigarette butt can contaminate seven litres of water in just one hour.
Cigarette butts can harm both land and marine animals that mistake the butts as food. Toxins released from ingested butts can be dangerous, whilst the butts themselves and other ingested pieces of plastic pollution can also accumulate also causing blockages, internal damage and ultimately death.
The Current Campaign
On 1st October 2020, Litter Free Dorset, in partnership with Litter Free Coast and Sea Somerset, Litter Free Coast and Sea Dorset, Wimborne War on Waste and Litter Free Purbeck, announced the launch of a new #BinYourButt campaign.
This campaign aimed to remind smokers to responsibly extinguish and dispose of their cigarettes, instead of tossing them onto the ground. This was accomplished by raising awareness that cigarette butts are actually a form of plastic pollution, and are very damaging to the environment.
Campaign posters were displayed in pubs and bus shelters in Purbeck and Wimborne. Beer mats displaying the campaign artwork were distributed to pubs, and free of charge stubby packs (along with posters) were distributed to local shops and participating pubs.
Stubby packs are nifty little pocket-sized pouches that are odour-proof and reusable. Store your cigarette butts in one until you can dispose of them responsibly!
To evaluate the success of this campaign, cigarette butt monitoring at bus shelters in Purbeck and Wimborne was conducted by volunteers from Litter Free Purbeck and Wimborne War on Waste.
Click the links below to see our campaign report and Bin Your Butt infographic.
Check out the #BinYourButt animation below, created by our friends over at Litter Free Coast & Sea Somerset
In 2017, a #BinYourButt campaign ran across three locations in Dorset that were badly affected by cigarette butt litter; Dorchester, Ferndown and Swanage.
In Dorchester the Higher or Lower game was run. Each week the Keeper of the Walks recorded how many cigarette butts were swept up. Using large signs that were placed in the centre of Dorchester, we updated people to show whether the number of butt dropped had increase or decreased since the previous week. By the end of the campaign, there had been a 67.8% drop in cigarette litter in Dorchester!
In Ferndown and Swanage, giant cigarette butts were used during events to make people realise that cigarette butt litter is not something that can just be walked over.
Click here to download the post campaign report, and find out how the Litter Free team got on with the #BinYourButt campaign across Dorset.