Tobacco companies will start contributing to Ireland's street cleaning bills from tomorrow under new government legislation.
The move is part of legislative changes made by Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan in compliance with a European Union directive which bans single-use plastic straws, cutlery and other disposable plastics.
The Tobacco Free Institute of Ireland has welcomed the move, but is concerned that companies will use it to greenwash their products.
Greenwashing is a form of advertising or marketing spin in which green marketing is deceptively used to persuade the public that an organisation's products and policies are environmentally friendly.
The anti-smoking group's Director General, Professor Luke Clancy, says that the way the the new scheme is run is what's most important.
'The good guys'
He says that when similar legislation was introduced in France, "the industry turned it around and made it an opportunity for greenwashing".
"They got involved in it and set up NGOs to help with the collection of litter."
Prof Clancy says they did this in an attempt to portray themselves "as the good guys".
"An evil industry that kills so many people, for instance in Europe about 700,000 and in this country 6,000 a year, they kind of painted themselves as the protectors of the environment", he said.
They tried to put the responsibility of pollution on smokers, he says, rather than he companies selling cigarettes.
In 2021 €85 million was spent by local authorities on street cleaning, with cigarettes butts accounting for half of all litter.
"We know that butts are hugely important", he said
"There's something like 4.2 trillion butts thrown away every year in the world."
The tobacco industry also plays "a big role" in deforestation.
Prof Clancy added: "They should be made pay and they should have nothing to do with the actual clean up."
"It is civil society's job and they should pay for it."
Main image shows a woman lighting a cigarette on the street. Picture by: Geoff Smith / Alamy