Smoking ban could lead to litter

As smokers are forced to take their habit onto the streets, councils are bracing themselves for a massive surge in litter when the national ban kicks in this July.

According to the Local Government Association (LGA) councils could be faced daily with an extra 25 tonnes of cigarette ends, discarded packets, spent matches and empty matchboxes.

To come to that figure, the council took existing figures for cigarette litter produced by environmental charity Encams and looked to Ireland to see how the ban had affected litter levels there.

“It’s a big problem,” a spokesman for the LGA told edie.

“The experience from Ireland and Dublin in particular showed a 20% increase after their ban.”

The association has been talking to many of its member councils about preparations for the ban, he said, and authorities up and down the country are getting ready for the worst.

Asked whether there was a chance the predicted mountain of cigarette butts might, like the Millennium Bug, fail to materialise, the spokesman said that the Irish experience suggested there was genuine cause for concern.

“Certainly we’re taking it very seriously,” he said.

“We’ve spoken to a number of councils about this and they are all gearing up for it.”

Local authorities have been allocated additional funding from central Government to help deal with the implications of the ban and have been given a free hand on how the money will be spent.

Some councils have opted for publicity campaigns while others will be using the cash for practical hands-on measures.

Specific plans include working with local businesses to provide ash trays and special containers outside pubs and restaurants, handing out free cigarette pouches for smokers to take their litter with them and launching advertising campaigns to ask people not to throw their butts on the ground.

Part of the battle would be persuading smokers to see their cigarette ends as they would any other kind of litter, said the spokesman.

Cllr David Rogers, LGA spokesman for the smokefree legislation, says: “Town halls are gearing up to deal with the hundreds of extra tonnes of cigarette butts, matches and cigarette boxes that could be carelessly chucked onto our streets by smokers after July 1st.

“Any littering is unacceptable but town halls are ensuring that smokers are given the opportunity to dispose of their rubbish responsibly. Councils will be working to help businesses respond to the new legislation.”

“Fag ends are particularly tricky to clean up as they fall into grates and cracks in the pavement. They also contain toxins which, if left, can get into the water system posing a threat to the environment and wildlife.

“The introduction of smoke-free workplaces represents the best chance to improve the public’s health for decades. However, councils are working hard to keep the streets clean and tidy and to ensure that unintended consequences of the legislation are minimised.”

Sam Bond

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