The smoking ban in public places has been in effect for over five years. Workplaces and social venues such as bars, hotels, offices and restaurants are now rid of the inconveniences caused by smoking. And yet, while public health can give itself a pat on the back for the successful introduction of the regulations, what about the repercussions for the environment as our cities’ pavements are transformed into giant ashtrays? And what are the consequences for our beaches?
From Land-based Litter to Aquatic Litter
Aquatic or marine litter is waste produced by people which is then introduced into the natural environment and disturbs or even destroys marine biodiversity. Cigarette butts are a concrete and very visible example of a chronic pollution affecting our coastlines. They were the predominant type of litter found during numerous beach clean-ups which were organised as part of the Ocean Initiatives. Knowing that 80% of marine litter stems from the continents, we can confirm that cigarette butts discarded in the street end up on our beaches and pollute our coastlines on a daily basis. Our cities need the necessary tools to fight this new type of pollution. However, do they have sufficient environmental determination to put a halt to this scourge?
Public Policies on Cleanliness are Late Emerging
Noting the worrying fact about the catastrophic proliferation of cigarette butts in the streets of Paris, the mayor Bertrand Delanoë had 10,000 street bins equipped with cigarette snuffers in November 2012. At the same time, he demanded the Minister of Home Affairs Manuel Valls to reinforce fines in order to encourage negligent smokers to more civic-mindedness. Above all, and beyond the eco-responsibility of their citizens, cities and towns need proper policies regulating public cleanliness.
Being the first victim of this scourge in France, the city of Paris is planning on equipping its streets with 30,000 new bins with integrated cigarette snuffers or ashtrays from mid-2013. This directive certainly comes a little late, but it bears witness to a newly found conscience faced with a very real environmental problem.
Cigarette Butts in Numbers*
137,000 cigarette butts are discarded every second in the world’s streets;
It takes on average 12 years for a cigarette butt to fully degrade;
500 litres is the estimated average of water polluted by a single cigarette butt;
Trick: Do not forget to use pocket ashtrays, which are made to resist the heat of the butt and which lock in the tobacco smell.
Léa Arrizabalaga, Environment Editor
The Ocean Initiatives (OI) will take place from the 21st to the 24th of March 2013 everywhere in Europe and around the world. The aim of this eco-citizen event is to curb the production and the consumption of plastic waste to reduce its accumulation in the marine and aquatic environments. In 2012, this event mobilised 50,000 participants spread over 1,230 clean-ups at beaches, lakes and rivers. Wanting to introduce a few innovations to this 18th edition, Surfrider Foundation Europe places new educational and lobbying tools at the disposal of the volunteers.
* Source: Le Parisien