Wednesday, 7 March 2007


I found 20 cents outide a shop the other day, which started me looking out for loose change dropped on the streets (it’s not very exciting but it kept me entertained for half an hour). I figured that if I averaged finding around 60c a week, (€31.20 a year) that in twenty years I would have €624 -enough to buy a really good neck brace! One thing I did notice though, were lots of cigarette ends. The streets do seem to be accumulating more butts than before the smoking ban was introduced as some pubs, offices and other retail outlets neglect putting out ashtays for staff and customers. Cigarette butts are one of the moxt toxic things that are thrown on the streets but most smokers don’t even realise that they are causing an environmental problem.

Globally, approximately 4.3 trillion cigarette butts are littered every year and in most Western countries, butts account for around 50% of all litter. Almost 1 in 3 cigarette butts end up as litter and most offenders do not even realise that they are doing it! Butt litter dramatically increases when indoor smoking bans come in, as you will see when you walk the streets of Inishowen.

Cigarette butts can leach chemicals such as cadmium; lead and arsenic into our marine environment within an hour of contact with water and the chemicals take 12 years to break down. Cigarette butts have been found in the stomachs of fish, whales, birds and other marine animals, which are poisonous to them.

Smokers in many countries can be fined for flicking a lit cigarette. A friend of mine once had one land on her lap as she drove her motorbike; luckily she managed to pull over to brush it off. My latest experience was when I put my shopping bag on one outside the Supervalu supermarket in Buncrana. The burn went through the plastic bag and damaged my new socks. Not the greatest of tragedies though I must confess, but a bit annoying.

In Dublin, they have a campaign highlighting this problem and warning offenders that they can get a fine of €125 for a dropped cigarette end.


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