Wednesday, 27 August 2014
In the past decade, cigarette smoking in America has decreased by 28% yet cigarette butts remain the most littered item in the U.S. and across the globe. This international environmental issue is costing Australians billions of dollars with an estimated 60% of smokers not disposing of their butts appropriately when smoking outside. This totals an astounding 32 billion cigarette butts littered around Australia annually, 9 billion butts in NSW alone, clogging up city streets and finding their way in to precious ecosystems. If Australia’s discarded butts were place end to end every year, they would circle the globe 16 times.
In addition to the monetary strain cigarette litter places on the Australian economy, discarded butts have serious effects on the environment. Due to their plastic content, cigarette butts are not readily biodegradable, taking 2-12 months to completely break down. The toxic residue found in cigarette butts infiltrates the soil and water they come in contact with, directly polluting the environment and having a measurable effect on its wildlife.
As a population, Australians are becoming healthier, but our environment is still wearing the cost of extensive litter damage.
Researchers have proposed a number of strategies to deter smokers from poisoning their own environment including government imposed fines, a clean-up levy on cigarette packs, and the development of biodegradable filters. Even though cigarette littering is illegal in every state and territory in Australia, research proves that the issue is far from resolved.
As the responsibility of cigarette waste literally lies in the hands of the smoker, Enviropoles have developed a solution that deals with the waste once it is created. Noting that cigarette butts are often found in smoke-free areas, the implementation of an Enviropole disposal unit deals with the problem at its very last stage; the moment when a smoker decides to carelessly release the butt in to the environment. The safe disposal units are engineered to contain cigarette and gum waste and combat additional issue including bin fires.
Thankfully, attitudes are slowly changing. In the past 12 months, Victoria’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recorded 20,000 littering complaints through their hotline. 86% of litter fines the EPA issues relate to lit and unlit cigarette butts being thrown from vehicles. The Australian population, it seems, are finally defending their environment.
The Australian Government is taking cigarette waste very seriously by enacting laws that make littering punishable including $200-$500 and the suspension of licenses. Hopefully Australia will begin to realise that revenue can be regenerated, but the environment cannot.