The government is considering making big tobacco companies pay the £40 million annual cost of cleaning up discarded cigarette butts under plans being explored to protect the environment and save local councils money.
Among the options being considered by ministers is a regulatory extended producer responsibility scheme for cigarette butts in England, a new power currently being legislated for in the Environment Bill.
This would require the tobacco industry to pay the full disposal costs of tobacco waste products, “ensuring the sector takes sufficient financial responsibility” for the litter its products create.
Despite smoking rates being at their lowest recorded level, cigarette filters continue to be the most commonly littered item in England.
According to Keep Britain Tidy research, smoking-related litter makes up 68% of all littered items and was found on around 80% of surveyed sites.
The vast majority of cigarette butts are single-use plastic and contain hundreds of toxic chemicals once smoked – littered cigarette filters can persist in the environment for many years and release these chemicals to the air, land and water, harming plant growth and wildlife.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Cigarette butts are a blight on our communities, littering our streets or ending up washed down the drain and polluting our rivers and oceans.
“We must all take action to protect our environment. We are committed to making sure that the tobacco industry plays its part. That is why we are exploring how cigarette companies can be held fully accountable for the unsightly scourge of litter created by their products.”