Cigarette Butt Litter Stubbed Out By Cheeky Beach Campaigners
Today, Tuesday 24 August, Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS)will team up on 4 beaches across Cornwall to ask smokers not to leave their butts on the beach – their cigarette butts that is!
At 10:00am on Towan Beach, Newquay campaigners from SAS and MCS wearing ‘cheeky buttocks’ will trawl the beach with a ‘huge cigarette’ calling on beach goers not to leave their butts in the sand. In return for beach user’s co-operation they will be distributing free pocket ashtrays or butt bins which beachgoers can use to stub out their butts. The campaigners will then move on to a further 3 beaches (Godrevy beach at Gwithian for 12noon, Castle and Gyllngvase beaches in Falmouth at 2pm and Seaton beach near Looe for 4pm) found to be regular victims of the cigarette butt, which poses an environmental threat to both wildlife and humans. The 4 beaches all recorded high numbers of cigarette butts in last years MCS Beachwatch survey (1-4 per metre).
The two non profit making organisations are working together to highlight the increasing numbers of cigarette butts ending up on UK beaches, and to promote the “No Butts on the beach” message which SAS launched in 2002. The campaign groups have also been joined in this initiative by Butts Out who have provided SAS with 1,000 portable ashtrays.
An estimated 4.5 TRILLION cigarette butts enter the environment every year. During the Marine Conservation Society’s Beachwatch 2003 beach litter survey, a total of 14,659 cigarette ends were found on 244 beaches around the UK, representing 5% of the total litter found during the survey. An average 108.7 cigarette ends were found for each kilometre of beach surveyed, equivalent to 1 butt for every 10 metres, an increase of 25% from Beachwatch 2002 (86.7 per km).
The filters are not, as commonly thought, made of paper, but cellulose acetate, a type of plastic which persists in the environment for many years. Cigarette ends can be mistaken for food and eaten by marine animals. They have been found in the guts of whales, dolphins, sea birds and turtles where they can leach toxic chemicals, cause inflammation of the animal’s digestive system and occasionally (if they cause a blockage of the gut), even death. Ingestion of cigarette butts can also result in vomiting, and convulsions in young children.
Cigarette filters, designed to absorb tar and chemicals such as cadmium, lead and arsenic leach these chemicals into the water when the filter reaches the sea. Experiments have shown that just one cigarette filter is toxic enough to kill water fleas in eight litres of water (K. Register, 2000.)
“People need to understand that dropping a cigarette butt is a form of littering, and that trillions of cigarette ends enter the water environment every year with potentially harmful consequences” says Andrea Crump, MCS Litter Projects Co-ordinator.
“We would encourage councils to provide more cigarette bins along beaches and better beach signage on the trail of devastation cigarette butts can cause if left on the beach” says Richard Hardy, SAS Campaigns Director.
MCS and SAS are asking smokers to take a portable ash tray/butt bin with you to the beach. You can also take part in MCS’s Adopt-a-Beach project to help clean and survey beach litter and identify the sources of litter and whether cigarette ends are a problem on your beach by contacting MCS on 01989 567807.