Back in September 2021, I read that Jason Alexander, founder of Rubbish Walks in Ipswich, had picked up one million cigarette butts in 3 years and he’s still going. He is now approaching the 1.2 million mark.
Having picked up a good many myself over the years, I too decided to start counting and 2 years later, we’ve picked up over 33,000. As I approached the 25,000 mark, I asked Jason if he’d kept a record of what that might look like and he sent me this photo.
This is just the tip of the iceburg – the 33,000+ that I’ve counted represent the efforts of a very few individuals over the 2 years. The vast amount of cigarette butts that Litter-Free Purbeck as a whole removes from our streets and beaches are not counted and neither are those removed by the various Dorset Councils.
From Streets To Beach To Sea
All of these butts, or most of them at least, would have ended up in the sea if they’d not been picked up by somebody. Anything that’s littered on the streets can find it’s way into the drains and water courses and eventually into the sea where it can be ingested by sealife. Who eats seafood? We do!
Normal street-cleaning cannot keep pace with the rate that cigarette butts are being discarded. In busy times, you only have to retrace your steps after you’ve cleaned a street to know this!
Cigarette Butt Facts
- Cigarette butts are non-biodegradable.
- They are a toxic contaminant which leaches numerous chemicals including heavy metals, nicotine and ethylphenol in water.
- They are most commonly found form of beach and ocean litter.
- Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup collected 2 million of them in 2014.
- An estimated 4 trillion are discarded across the world each year.
- They pose a threat to animals and people, particularly young children if ingested.
Source: ASH Fact Sheet on Tobacco and the environment www.ash.org.uk
What Can We Do About it?
In 2019, we ran a Blitz The Butts campaign in Swanage in conjunction with Litter Free Coast & Sea to raise awareness of the problem. This ran from May to October and there was a perceived improvement with less noticeable butt litter following local businesses displaying our posters in their windows. The “Stub Tidies” donated by the Campaign To Protect Rural England (CPRE), to give away, also helped.
Unfortunately, this give-away has come to an end, so now we’re looking for retailers willing to sell these at a nominal cost.
If you know of any retailers in Purbeck who’d like to help, please contact us at email@example.com