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Smoking litter still a big problem in Wales

A new report published by Keep Wales Tidy has revealed the prevalence of smoking-related litter and the far-reaching impacts on our health, wildlife and environment.

During recent street cleanliness surveys, smoking-related litter was found on 80.3% of our streets, making it the most common type of litter in Wales. They are also the most counted item on beaches in Europe.

Across the UK, it is estimated that 122 tonnes of smoking-related litter are dropped every day. This is predominantly in the form of cigarette ends which are difficult and time-consuming to clean up – costing the taxpayer millions of pounds each year.

Contrary to popular belief, cigarette filters are not biodegradable, but are made of a type of plastic which means they can stay in the environment for up to 15 years. And, because of their small size, cigarette ends are easily transported to our waterways and coast.

The toxins contained in cigarettes can leach out into the environment, posing a risk to human health.

Cigarette ends can also have deadly consequences for wildlife and have been found in the guts of whales, dolphins, turtles and seabirds who have mistaken them for food.

Jemma Bere, Policy and Research Manager for Keep Wales Tidy said:

“We want to debunk the myths and misconceptions around the disposal of cigarette ends. Despite their size, cigarette ends still count as litter – so dropping them is a criminal offence. Put simply, our pavements and drains are not ashtrays!”

Keep Wales Tidy’s smoking-related litter report looks at how the issue has been tackled around the world and outlines a number of recommendations. These include ensuring sufficient bins are in place, greater collaboration with the tobacco industry, continued monitoring and enforcement, as well as targeted campaigns to change behaviour.

Jemma continued:

“Smokers need to be aware that cigarette ends are not biodegradable, are harmful to our health, wildlife and the environment. There are many ways that local authorities and businesses such as pubs and restaurants can play their part and ensure that there is adequate provision for responsible disposal; many bins nowadays have stubbing plates to help smokers properly extinguish their cigarettes. Of course, where there aren’t bins available, smokers can always dispose of their cigarette ends safely and conveniently using a portable ashtray.”

Visit the Keep Wales Tidy website to find out more about smoking-related litter.

Download the full report here

Do you want to help make a difference? Join Keep Wales Tidy for September’s All Wales Beach Clean – an ambitious new campaign which aims to clean-up every public beach in Wales!