Keep Britain Tidy launches cigarette litter campaign

Keep Britain Tidy launches cigarette litter campaign
The KBT and Manchester City Council teams at the launch of the campaign

A new campaign against the careless littering of cigarette butts has been launched by national environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy (KBT).

#BanTheButt was launched in Manchester yesterday (29 August), and has seen 40 large cigarette butts installed in St Peter’s Square as a striking visual reminder of the waste produced by smoking. Campaigners in the square are engaging with smokers and encouraging them to bin their butts, as well as offering portable ashtrays.

Motivated by the results of its annual survey which analyses the cleanliness of English streets, KBT revealed that littering within the UK has increased by four per cent since its last survey in 2014/15. It is estimated that litter collectively costs local authorities £1 billion each year to clean, with 79 per cent of this waste made up of discarded cigarette butts.

Cllr Rabnawaz Akbar, Manchester CIty Council’s Executive Member for Neighbourhoods, commented on the partnership with KBT: “We know that the vast majority of people want to see a clean city that we can all be proud of and with some 700 bins across the city centre alone, there is no excuse for anyone to discard their cigarette carelessly. Alongside Keep Britain Tidy, we encourage all smokes to get behind us and bin the butt.”

Speaking on the problem of litter in the city more widely, Akbar added: “Dropping a cigarette on the ground is littering plain and simple and is not something we will tolerate in Manchester. Our dedicated team of litter enforcement officers won’t hesitate to take action against those they find irresponsibly dropping cigarette butts and those caught could receive a fine of up to £80.”

Keep Britain Tidy launches cigarette litter campaign
Cllr Rabnawaz Akbar and KBT CEO Allison Ogden-Newton

Life beyond our city streets is also deeply affected by litter, with commonly-littered cigarettes posing as one of the more dangerous forms of waste for the marine environment. Research published in New Scientist found that one cigarette butt per litre of water can poison half the fish that swim in its path. Yet KBT’s own research has revealed that only 53 per cent of smokers know that harmful particles from their cigarettes can end up in the ocean after being deposited in the drain. 77 per cent (nearly four out of five) are concerned that cigarettes could harm marine life, but 39 per cent of smokers continue to put cigarette butts down the drain.

KBT has partnered with SEA LIFE Manchester and created an underwater seascape to provide a visual demonstration of the impact of cigarettes in our seas. There are three one-metre sculptures of enlarged cigarette butts installed inside one of the aquariums at SEA LIFE to shine a light on how the items are damaging the oceans.

The UK’s first ‘Tidy City’

Aside from launching #BinTheButt, Manchester City Council and KBT are working together to make Manchester the country’s first ‘Tidy City’ by 2020. This is the first time a national charity is formally joining with a UK city.

Key partners including Metrolink, Manchester Metropolitan University and Manchester City Football Club attended the launch event in March to discuss how they can assist the campaign and achieve the 2020 ‘Tidy City’ status.

One idea that has come out of the partnership is the #StillLittering campaign. As one in four people admit to ‘careful littering’, KBT produced a series of posters and floor vinyls to prevent members of the public placing litter on the ground or a surface before walking away and leaving.

KBT’s CEO, Allison Ogden-Newton, said: “In the past few decades we have become a society that consumes on the go, with all the packaging that goes along with it. If you buy something – be it a packet of crisps or a bottle of water – you buy the packaging as well and it is your responsibility to dispose of that packaging appropriately by recycling it or putting it in the bin.”

With interventions such as #StillLittering, KBT are starting to stimulate a change in thinking. According to the charity, the campaign prompted two thirds of the public who saw it to say it was so effective that they will stop leaving litter behind.

Neater streets

The idea behind #BinTheButt has been echoed by other campaign groups, including behaviour change charity Hubbub, which first trialled its ballot bin ashtray for cigarette butts in 2016. This concept was part of Hubbub’s Neat Streets campaign and enabled the user to choose between two transparent boxes to dispose of their cigarette waste. The ballot bin asks playful questions such as ‘Who is the best footballer in the world?’, specifically targeting young men as the main social group responsible for creating cigarette waste. The bin has since been sold in more than 20 countries around the world.

Launched in London, the wider Neat Streets campaign examines which techniques work best to change the behaviour of the public and so tackle the problem of street litter. Three campaigns have taken since place in Leeds, Birmingham and Edinburgh and in each location, Hubbub has experimented with different attention-grabbing approaches, from flash-mobs and talking bins to naked bin men and chewing gum art.

Keep up to date with Keep Britain Tidy’s current campaign #BinTheButt by following @MCCHulme or check out Keep Britain Tidy’s website.

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