Over 1 billion cigarette butts are cast off as litter each year. Picture: iStock
Over 1 billion cigarette butts are cast off as litter each year. Picture: iStock

Ciggie butts in the crosshairs

NSW is developing its first targeted cigarette butt litter reduction program after a trial showed targeted interventions could prevent more than 790 million cigarette butts polluting the environment each year, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment announced today.

Cigarette butts are the most littered item in NSW, making up almost 4 of every 10 littered items. Current data suggests only 40 per cent of cigarette butts are put in the bin, with more than 1.3 billion butts entering the litter stream each year.

Butts are made from plastic and don’t break down, which means they persist in the environment and cause damage to plants and animals. They are also an expensive item to clean up.

In 2018 the NSW Litter Prevention Unit worked with 16 councils trialling different interventions at 40 smoking hotspots including transport hubs, shopping strips, parks, outside licensed venues and office blocks.

DPIE Executive Director Circular Economy and Resource Management Sanjay Sridher said this was the most comprehensive review of smoker behaviour ever conducted in Australia.

“The results of our world-first intervention trials are fantastic with an overall 53 per cent improvement in binning rates,” he said.

“The NSW Litter Prevention Unit is now using the trial results for a new litter program targeting cigarette butts.

“If we introduce this right across NSW, it would mean round 795 million more cigarette butts going in the bin and staying out of the environment.

“We know that nine out of 10 people in NSW think littering is unacceptable and we’re encouraging everyone to do the right thing with their rubbish.”

The new Cigarette Butt Litter Prevention Program includes the delivery of guidelines and resources, a review of existing litter enforcement strategies, and a targeted behaviour change campaign with the highly recognised Don’t Be A Tosser! campaign.

It is part of NSW’s first Litter Prevention Strategy, also published this month along with a new Report Card showing how NSW is working to reduce litter volume.

The Strategy is funded to June 2021 through the $50 million commitment to litter prevention under the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, with $500,000 earmarked for grant programs that will specifically target cigarette butt litter.