Smoking ban tipped to add to litter problem

The fag end of the proposed ban on smoking inside most public spaces is likely to result in an increased litter problem on the UK's streets as experience in Ireland has shown. Keep Britain Tidy is calling on restaurants and businesses across the country to install bins outside their premises to help avoid a build up of butts.

The anti-litter lobby, Keep Britain Tidy, has published a report which claims that smoking restrictions have turned some parts of Ireland into a “dump”. The campaign also says that workplace bans in England are forcing smokers on to the streets – where a lack of bins has already resulted in a big rise in rubbish.

“Boxes, butts and matches are our biggest litter problem and are found on around 90% of our streets” said Alan Woods, Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy. “While we all understand the reasons for a ban, the health of our environment has got to be considered too and smokers need something to drop their dog ends in. If we don’t provide this, then England will become a giant ashtray.”

Citing research carried out by Stubbi, a manufacturer of reusable plastic pouches for cigarette ends, the environmental group claims, “This is already the situation in the Republic of Ireland, where areas outside pubs, restaurants and colleges have born the full brunt of their ban. In fact, 61% of residents in Cork, Dublin, Galway and Waterford, believed that litter had increased since prohibition began”.

The Republic of Ireland’s National Litter Report for 2004, which contains comprehensive data on litter to date, showed that cigarette related litter (48.06%), food related litter (30.81%) and packaging litter (14.56%) were the main litter constituents identified nationally.

The report also shows that the incidence of cigarette related litter has increased substantially, most likely as a result of the Ban on Smoking in the Workplace. Most of this litter is found at gathering points (eg: outside shops, bars, restaurants and workplaces).

There are nuances within the statistics contained in the National Litter Pollution Monitoring System Report, where a detailed examination of cigarette related litter in the Dublin local authorities shows that “It is apparent that the percentage of cigarette related litter in Dublin local authorities has decreased from 2003 to 2004. However, the percentage of cigarette related litter still constitutes over 60% of litter in all local authorities, with the exception of South Dublin County Council.”

This decrease is attributed in a large part to the increase in the percentage of food litter, especially in South Dublin County Council, with an increase of over 35% in food related litter from 2003 to 2004, which is mainly due to chewing gum litter.

On the plus side, the report also says that information from local authority staff at Dublin City Council has indicated that cigarette receptacles are located on about 50% of businesses in Dublin City Council area. This number has increased “dramatically” since the Ban on Smoking in the Workplace. Dublin City Council has also increased the number of cleaning personnel on the street, especially in the evening shift.

Off-site smokers

Keep Britain Tidy says that, in England, sanctions on smoking at work have been having a similar effect to that experienced in Ireland. Nearly half the smokers questioned by Keep Britain Tidy, were now nipping off the premises for a quick cigarette.

Of these, 35% were not provided with a bin, an ashtray or a bucket of sand. Consequently, half of these off-site smokers reckoned the streets around them were a mess. Even in specially designated areas, 13% of employers were not providing any facilities for smokers to use.

In order to remedy this situation, Keep Britain Tidy has written to a hundred of the country’s biggest companies, offering them cut-price bins for their staff to use. Any business that buys a bin will have its name publicised on the Campaign’s website. Pubs, clubs and restaurants can also take advantage of this offer – as can councils.

Keep Britain Tidy is also working on supplying thousands of smokers with portable ashtrays, so that they can store their butts safely until they reach a bin.

Alan Woods commented: “It is not good enough to simply rail at smokers for littering. We need to offer them a practical, safe and popular alternative to stamping their stub on the street.

“That is something we are looking into but in the meantime I don’t see any reason why businesses can’t provide proper facilities for smokers to use. It is not good enough to push the problem outside – and force council taxpayers to pick up the tab for cleaning up.”

Keep Britain Tidy says that the discounted cigarette-bins are manufactured by Cigarette Bins UK, Glasdon, the No Butts Bin Company, Unicorn Containers and Wybone.

The anti-litter body also lists “filthy facts to make you fume:”

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