Thankfully, things have changed. But it didn’t happen overnight. Years of hard work by local councils, and NGOs like Keep Australia Beautiful, have brought change. Brilliant campaigns like Do The Right Thing have altered the way Australians think about littering, by making it socially unacceptable. And that was done not by penalties and fines, but by appealing to the community’s better nature. Last year marked the twentieth anniversary of Clean Up Australia Day. Who, back in 1990, would have envisioned that one day countless thousands of volunteers would give up their time to remove litter not just from their own neighbourhood but from public lands and waterways?
A remarkable commitment which does credit to everyone, from the organisers to the volunteers. Yet there is one litter problem which has been particularly difficult to address.
Cigarette butts. The statistics are astonishing. Australians smoke 35 billion cigarettes each year. Because they’re small and easily discarded, and because smokers generally are unaware of the environmental problem they cause, cigarette butts are this country’s number one litter problem. The poisonous nicotine content makes them very slow to degrade biologically. Any butt dropped in the gutter is washed into the nearest river or estuary, in the next rainstorm. There it can float around or drift ashore, and remain a problem for years. Here’s the facts, from the Victorian Litter Action Alliance. And marine pollution is not the only environmental problem caused by dropped cigarette butts:
Anything that can be done to make smokers responsible for their own cigarette butts is worth investigating. All around the world remedial options have been tried – principally, fines, signage and advertising:
But the only effective and proven way to address the problem is to change smoker behaviour, and make them feel responsible for the waste they are generating. Efforts towards that end have been led by councils, Keep Australia Beautiful and NGOs like the Victorian Litter Alliance and Buttfree.Org. Progress is being made, just like it was with plant clippings and roadside litter. But to change behaviour the remedy must be so simple and convenient to use that minimal effort is required.
That’s why personal ashtrays have become so popular around the globe over the last few years. In many countries smoking in the workplace is no longer permitted, meaning smokers must go outside to indulge their habit.
There, the temptation is to drop a cigarette butt when no-one’s looking. Anti-littering penalties have limited effectiveness:
What has been proven effective is appealing to smokers’ better nature by providing a sponsored personal ashtray, and asking them to ‘do the right thing.’
Quantitative research has shown this method results in a substantial reduction, in cigarette butt litter:
Butt Free proved a personal ashtray is an effective and proven way of making smokers responsible for their own litter. Note our ashtrays on the pledge table:
Here’s their findings:
The key to addressing the reduction of butt littering is behavioural change….. infrastructure such as butt bins and personal ashtrays foster desirable behaviour by providing smokers with convenient and easy ways to appropriately dispose of their butts.
We are proud to be associated with this very worthwhile cause by providing a particularly effective fliptop airtight personal ashtray to local government departments, corporations and environmental groups - in Australia, the UK, and the USA.
Ashtrays are usually printed with the appropriate reminder. They can often be funded by environmental grants, and are a proven effective way to reduce both street and waterways pollution, at the source.
If you haven’t considered personal ashtrays as a tool for anti-littering campaigns,
please let me know if you’d like to receive samples, or more details?
Our specialty is high quality printing, low cost, and fast delivery.
One last important item to mention. A butt litter program will only be successful, if the smoker retains and uses their personal ashtray. For that to happen, the ashtray selected by program directors must be one that seals properly, and is easy to use. Smokers’ primary concern is the stale smoke odour, leaking into pockets and purses. So ashtrays that aren’t airtight won’t be effective. Some on the market won’t hold water, let alone cigarette smoke:
24 x 4 display trays
total 96 units
It’s crucial to select a personal ashtray that works properly. Otherwise smokers will politely accept one from Council staff, but a day or two later it will end up in a drawer or even in the bin. Ours uses a silicone plug to guarantee a tight seal.
That – and the cost effective pricing – is why it’s the number one ashtray worldwide, for butt litter campaigns. I was talking recently with the Pollution Control Officer at Salisbury Council in SA. He had previously been at Adelaide City Council, which used our ashtray for their litter campaigns. He said to me that, during their campaign, ACC offered ashtrays to smokers on the street. However, many of those smokers still had our ashtrays, from their earlier campaigns. That great result fits in with a survey we commissioned from Benchmark Research, who tested 300 respondents and compared our model, the aluminium envelope type, and the ‘Go Green Butt Bin’, which Coles were ranging until recently.
Here’s the results, in terms of preference:
. Envelope-type ashtray: 3%
. Go Green Butt Bin: 5%
. Our fliptop airtight ashtray: 92%
For an ashtray to be successful, it must be easy to use by smokers.
Like to know more?
Please send an email, and we’ll forward a sample pack and offer sheet ASAP.
Thanks for reading,
Stelco Pty Ltd
Tel. +61 40207 5000