Cigarette butts

The facts

  • Cigarette butts are the most littered item in Australia.
  • Approximately seven billion of the 24 billion filtered cigarettes sold every year in Australia are littered.
  • Six out of 10 Australian smokers litter their butts outdoors.
  • Cigarette butts comprise around 50 per cent of the Western Australia litter stream.

Why should I care?

  • buttsButts littered on streets get washed into stormwater drains and into waterways where they leach toxic chemicals such as cadmium, lead and zinc.
  • Butts are commonly mistaken for food by marine life and have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, sea turtles and other marine creatures.
  • Cigarette butts are made from non-biodegradable plastic and can take up to 12-15 years to break down.
  • Cigarette butts are responsible for 8-10 per cent of bush fires in rural areas.*

Littering is illegal

Flicking cigarettes from your vehicle; stubbing out and flicking butts onto public areas such as footpaths, roads, gutters, bus shelters and outside office buildings can all incur a fine. Under the Litter Act 1979 you can be fined $200 for the incorrect disposal of your butt. If the butt is lit when it is disposed of, and it can be demonstrated that this littering poses a public risk (for example littering in dry grass increasing the risk of a bushfire) then it can lead to a $500 fine. 

What you can do to help reduce cigarette butt litter

  • If you are a smoker, dispose of your cigarettes butts responsibly by always putting them in a bin.
  • Carry a pocket ashtray with you to use when there are no bins around. 
  • Get your business involved in the Bin Your Butt Program - a workplace education campaign to reduce butt litter.
  • If you are a non smoker, or a smoker who does the right thing, you can also help make a difference by registering to become a litter reporter.

 

REFERENCES: * Planet Ark Cigarette Butt Report 2003; FESA 2009.