54% of all litter in Ireland is cigarette butts, according to new figures released by the Department of the Environment.
Few smokers would deny that is it something they haven’t done - or at the very least have not witnessed; a man or woman takes a final drag, stubs the smouldering last embers out on something solid and casually flicks the remains of a cigarette onto the ground.
In theory, someone caught littering can be fined €250 and out on the streets of Dublin, plenty of smokers were happy to admit it was something they had done:
“I just throw them on the ground,” one smoker told The Hard Shoulder.
“If there’s one I can see I’ll put it in the bin but there’s just not enough bins in this city in general.”
“It is [something I’ve done],” another smoker said wistfully.
“Because there’s nowhere else to put it, you know? But I definitely think the emphasis should be on the plastic in the filter - it doesn’t biodegrade.”
'Time consuming task'
For Trevor Marr, who works in waste management at Dublin City Council, dealing with smokers’ litter is an unwanted and “time consuming task”:
“It happens quite a lot in the city - particularly outside pubs as you say,” he explained.
“Bus stops, anywhere people will gather and obviously smoke, the cigarettes will be dropped on the ground in most cases.
“All our litter bins around bus stops, around any places where people can gather, most of them have an ashtray attached to them; most pubs, bars, restaurants have ashtrays outside, people still proceed to drop them on the ground.”
Cigarette butts can be around for years if they’re not cleaned up and Mr Marr said one way to help tackle the problem would be for manufacturers to ask people not to litter:
“As you say the chewing gum companies put their ‘No litter’ message on it [the packaging], the cigarette companies could and should do the same.”
Main image: A cigarette on the pavement on Wicklow Street, Dublin.