Charities call for crackdown on cigarette litter

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ASH Scotland and the MCS want filters to be reclassified as single-use plastics.

27th August 2019 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

Two charities have called on Scotland’s environment minister to reclassify cigarette butts as single-use plastics in a bid to curb litter.

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and ASH Scotland said discarded cigarette filters are among the most pervasive forms of litter on the country’s streets and beaches.

When disposed of at the seaside, the filters leak toxins which contaminate water and harm marine life.

Butts have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, whales and other marine creatures, who mistake them for food.

The charities now want the filters to be reclassified alongside plastic cotton bud stems, straws and cups as non-essential consumer items, pieces of single-use plastic which centre on convenience and preference which could be replaced by other products or ultimately, behaviour change.

The charities now want the filters to be reclassified alongside plastic cotton bud stems, straws and cups as non-essential consumer items, pieces of single-use plastic which centre on convenience and preference which could be replaced by other products or ultimately, behaviour change.

In a letter to environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham MSP, they urge ministers to take urgent action to reduce the volume of plastic pollution on Scottish beaches caused by cigarette butts.

John Watson, deputy chief executive at ASH Scotland said: “Cigarette filters don’t protect smokers from the health risks of smoking, and they are a significant part of the plastic waste that blights our streets, beaches and seas. So why should we see action to tackle plastic straws and cups but not plastic cigarette butts?”

Earlier this month, MCS hosted a beach clean with MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton in Queensferry. Volunteers collected 897 litter items, 675 of which were cigarette butts, meaning 77% of all litter collected at the beach was cigarette waste.

Calum Duncan, MCS Head of Conservation Scotland said: “Friday’s beach clean adjacent to South Queensferry High Street illustrates the severity of the problem posed by cigarette filters, one of the top three items of litter we find on beaches across the UK.

“We’re working with ASH Scotland to request that the Scottish Government treat cigarette filters in the same way as other single-use plastic items and start introducing measures to eradicate them.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton, MSP for Edinburgh Western, added: “It was really insightful to join the MCS team and dedicated volunteers as Queensferry beach today to see the extent of litter on the beach which is made up of cigarette filters.

"More needs to be done to educate beachgoers of the adverse effects of cigarette butts on marine life and to take action to classify them as non-essential single-use plastic items alongside straws and cups.”