The Central City Improvement District (CCID) and the City of Cape Town are working with an unlikely partner – tobacco company Philip Morris International – to create awareness around the responsible disposal of cigarette butts, and ultimately kicking the habit.
The awareness drive, called #unsmoke, was launched in the city centre on Thursday September 26, with an installation of a pile of at least 200 cigarette butts in St George’s Mall, while members of the public took photographs and pulled up their noses at the smell coming from it.
The awareness drive is part of a global initiative which will be rolled out in other big cities in South Africa in the coming months.
Marcelo Nico, managing director of Philip Morris International, said tobacco companies should be involved in creating awareness about the impact that butt disposal has on the environment.
Recently released results of a study undertaken by Anglia Ruskin University, in Cambridge, England, reported that every year an estimated 4.5 trillion butts are littered globally.
The #unsmoke movement’s slogan is: If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quit, and if you don’t quit, be better.
The CCID rolled out a project in 2011, which saw 300 smokers’ bins being placed strategically around the city centre for people to properly dispose of their butts.
The team also regularly hands out pocket ashtrays to encourage people not to throw their butts in the streets.
The CCID sweeps and picks up, on average, 2 400kg of litter from the city’s streets every week.
CCID CEO Tasso Evangelinos, said it cost the CCID R30 000 a day to clean the CBD. This amounts to nearly
R11 million a year and does not include the cost of the mass waste removal done by the City of Cape Town.
He said while the roll-out of the bins had been successful, it was not enough.
Mayco member for solid waste management, Xanthea Limberg, said there was little awareness about
how waste was handled, and there were many challenges the department faced, among them illegal dumping.
“It is important to raise awareness and show the public that they need
to get rid of waste responsibly,” she said, adding that because cigarette butts were so small, many people didn’t think twice about how
they contributed to waste and its removal.
The installation, she said, had been an eye-opener to many.
Since the amendments of the by-laws, which, among others, prohibited having smoking rooms inside buildings, smoking within 10m of the entrance to a building or workplace, as well as the disposal of butts in the streets, Ms Limberg said the City had received many complaints.
However, enforcing the by-law was a grey area, as a cigarette butt was too small to simply fine someone for discarding it, and also, law enforcement couldn’t be around all the time.
“That’s why prevention is better than cure,” said Ms Limberg.
She said a cigarette butt is not recyclable, and should form part of the waste that goes to the landfill. However, if people don’t dispose of them correctly, they land up in nature and the ocean, and block drains.
Ward councillor Dave Bryant added that as the weather gets warmer it was more important that ever to discard of cigarette butts properly so that they did not pose a fire hazard.