Government to consider legislating over cigarette butt litter

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow has warned the tobacco industry to “step up” and play its part in tackling cigarette butt litter or the government will consider legislating to force the industry to tackle the issue.

Speaking at the Tidy Britain All-Party Parliamentary Group last week (8 July), the MP for Taunton Deane who holds the resources and waste brief at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) expressed her “frustration” at the tobacco industry’s lack of action on tackling cigarette litter.

Cigarette butts on the floorPow urged the industry to act on its commitments made to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee in 2015, which called for any additional revenue generated by raising tobacco levies to go to funding the clean-up of cigarette litter, or the government would force the industry to act.

Pow said: “I am firmly committed to clamping down on littering and the devastating impact this has on our environment and wildlife. We know cigarette butts account for a shocking 66 per cent of all littered items dropped, so I urge the tobacco industry to step up now and play their part in this nationwide effort.”

Forcing the tobacco industry to take responsibility for the litter produced by cigarettes is an issue that has been raised before, with the Environmental Services Association estimating the councils could save around £140 million every year if tobacco companies were made to cover the costs of cleaning up such litter.

A number of speakers at the meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group raised the idea of bringing cigarette butts into the scope of an extended producer responsibility (EPR) regime that would make the tobacco industry responsible for the costs of cigarette butt clean-up.

The EU’s Single Use Plastic Directive will mandate this across the EU, but this will not be applicable in the UK at the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020 unless the UK legislates for it separately.

Kevin Hollinrake MP and Chair of the Tidy Britain Parliamentary Group, which consists of parliamentarians from all parties, including Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, commented: “Cigarette litter is the number one littered item in the UK and yet the tobacco industry contributes virtually nothing to litter prevention, despite reports suggesting they make around £1 billion in profit each year.

“Therefore I am delighted that the government has put the tobacco industry on notice and that unless it meets its obligations it will bring forward legislation to force it to.

“MPs from all parties have asked for action, so I am pleased that the minister has today responded to these concerns and set out a clear path to do this. We will now follow this up with firm policy proposals to Defra, the tobacco industry and the select committee.’

Cigarette butt litter is estimated to make up 79 per cent of the litter local authorities clean up every single year, and has been the subject of multiple public campaigns, including by campaign group Keep Britain Tidy.

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