South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) has joined forces with environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy to launch Bin the Butt to stamp out cigarette litter.
The council is urging people to rethink how they dispose of their cigarettes, as research has shown that only half (53%) of smokers in Britain know that cigarette butts get washed into the sea if they are dropped down the drain, causing significant damage to marine life.
SLDC enforcement officers will be raising awareness of the campaign by displaying posters in town centres across the district and in known hotspot areas for cigarette butt littering.
Bin the Butt signage will also be placed on the council’s fleet of waste, recycling and street cleansing vehicles.
Dropped cigarette butts are the most common form of littering, and nearly four in ten (39%) smokers admit to throwing a cigarette butt down a drain within the past month.
This research – carried out for Keep Britain Tidy by YouGov, which was made possible thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery – also showed that one in ten smokers (11%) do not even consider cigarette butts to be litter.
SLDC’s environment portfolio holder, Councillor Dyan Jones, said: “We are encouraging people to put cigarette butts in a bin or an ashtray to reduce litter and protect our environment.
“Some people often have the misconception that cigarette filters are biodegradable, but they contain plastic and a number of chemicals. When they are dropped down drains or washed down them, they flow directly into a river or sea.”
Studies have shown that just one cigarette butt per litre of water is highly toxic to fish.
“Dropping a cigarette end on the floor is littering and an offence. If caught by one of the council’s enforcement team you will be issued with a fixed penalty notice of up to £100,” added Cllr Jones.
SLDC provide and empty over 850 litter bins across the district, bins located in main streets and playgrounds are emptied daily.
Keep Britain Tidy CEO, Allison Odgen-Newton, said: “While flicking a cigarette down the drain may not seem harmful, we need to ensure smokers understand that this has a direct and often drastic impact on wildlife.
“Our research showed that more than a fifth (22%) of Brits thought putting a cigarette down the drain was acceptable, which rose sharply to over half (52%) among smokers who smoke every day. We need to challenge this view and get the message to smokers that this is still littering.
“We are delighted that SLDC is working with us to encourage smokers to Bin the Butt and stop the flow of plastic, toxic cigarette butts into our rivers and oceans.”
More information on Bin the Butt can be found at: www.keepbritaintidy.org.