With one of the driest Julys on record we have seen a problem in the town exposed to its full extent. Cigarette butts are everywhere. Clearly when it rains they normally get washed through the gutters, down the drains, and straight into the sea, but now they are just lying around waiting. I have been busy with my chalk (but have been asked not to do it any more during the summer months as it looks ‘unsightly’. I might be pedantic and say no more unsightly than the problem I’m highlighting, but if it’s got people talking then maybe I’ve done my job for now…
What a lot of people seem not to comprehend is not only dropping their fag butts on the ground littering, like any other littering, and it looks unsightly: it is also plastic pollution. “Many people, even smokers, are not aware that the cigarette filter is comprised of thousands of little particles of plastic,” says Nicolas Mallos, director of Trash Free Seas Program at the Ocean Conservancy in Washington DC. “One solid filter ends up being thousands of tiny fibres that can be released into the marine environment.” [The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/jun/09/why-cigarette-butts-threaten-to-stub-out-marine-life]
How do we get people to change their behaviour? For a start, offer a solution. At the places where the litter is most seen (by McColls in town is a hot spot – clearly workers from other shops nip round the corner for a cheeky fag on their break, and there is nowhere to put the butts so they get dropped). Putting a cigarette disposal bin on the wall right there seems an obvious solution, plus one in the market square by the benches, by any bus stops (managed for Stagecoach by EDDC), and all along the sea front, where soulful people stand and gaze wistfully out at the beautiful ocean, while dropping their fag butts on the ground to be blown directly on to the beach.
Obviously having the bins isn’t enough. They need to be emptied regularly and securely. The bins in the market square have disposal units built in to the top, but according to local shop owners the refuse parts of the bins are emptied without emptying the ashtray part on top, so as they are tilted sideways to gain access to the bin bag, the cigarette butts all fall out…this seems insane, almost criminal, to me.
Terracycle are now offering a free recycling service for cigarette detritus: “TerraCycle and JTI have partnered to create the Cigarette Waste Programme, a free recycling programme for cigarette waste. All the waste collected through the programme will be recycled into a variety of useful plastic products such as plastic lumber and boards that can be used for items ranging from construction holding, signage and table tops. Any remaining tobacco or paper will be recycled as compost – nothing will go to landfill.” [https://www.terracycle.co.uk/en-GB/brigades/cigarette-waste-brigade] So all we need to do is encourage the pubs, public at home and EDDC to collect them and we can send them from a central point, freepost. Signage and promotion of this will also highlight the pollution problems that people seem unaware of. I have passed this onto Chris Holland at Sidmouth Town Council to see if we can get it taken further. It seems a no brainer to me.