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Cigarette butt research and analysis

The World Wildlife Fund engaged Equilibrium to investigate solutions to the environmental problem of cigarette and butt litter in Australia.

Cigarette butt litter is one of the most littered items in Australia.  Of the 24 billion cigarettes currently consumed each year, as much as 8 million end up as litter.  Cigarette butt filters are made from non-bio degradable plastic and can take up to 12 – 15 years to break down into micro plastics. The World Health Organisation has advocated for the elimination of filters as they do not protect against the harms of smoking.

The World Wildlife Fund engaged Equilibrium to investigate solutions to the environmental problem of cigarette and butt litter in Australia. Equilibrium’s report examined the international initiatives and policies to combat cigarette butt waste. A mandated national product stewardship scheme, similar to the EU’s extended producer responsibility legislation, and/or a national ban on plastic filters is likely to have the greatest impact in reducing butt pollution.

The product stewardship approach most likely to deliver significant environmental benefits is a nationally mandated scheme led by the Australian Government. A levy of $0.004 (less than half a cent) per cigarette raises $71million per year to fund clean-up costs currently met by governments and taxpayers – alternatively the levy could be placed with the brand owners to fund a product stewardship scheme to fund the scheme.

Equilibrium concluded that a national ban on plastic cigarette butt filters or a product stewardship scheme would have the greatest impact in reducing cigarette butt litter.

Read Equilibrium’s full report.

Read the WWF news post about the report.

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