23 billion cigarette butts thrown into nature per year, the state acts


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Smoking kills… the planet. While consuming cigarettes is within everyone’s freedom, it is not allowed to throw butts anywhere, and for good reason.

In February 2021, Eurobarometer shared a new survey on the attitudes of Europeans towards tobacco and electronic cigarettes. The French smoked on average close to 12 cigarettes per day in 2020, thus approaching the European average established at 14. Although tobacco consumption in France decreased in 2020 compared to 2017, butts are still swarming in green spaces and on sidewalks. Tuesday, August 10, 2021, the State announced the establishment of a device to act against the scourge of cigarette butts.

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The REP sector: the polluter pays principle

Faced with the figure of 23 billion cigarette butts discarded in nature in France each year, according to the Ministry of the Environment, the State has planned to provide “80 million euros per year for communities”. This will allow them “To finance the collection and cleaning inherent in cigarette butts thrown on the ground”.

The law relating to the fight against waste and the circular economy of February 2020 included the creation, from 2021, of the REP sector (for Extended Producer Responsibility), which targets in particular cigarettes. The principle of the sector is that of the polluter pays: whoever manufactures, distributes or imports any product is obliged to take care of its end of life. The goal, what does Ouest France recall? Follow the European directive on single-use plastics which aims to reduce the level of plastics in the environment, especially in the oceans. And that concerns cigarettes: last Tuesday, the Ministry of the Environment explained that each butt polluted “Up to 500 liters of water each”.

With this EPR sector, companies in the tobacco sector must therefore finance the contribution. This will then be donated to the communities and will thus make it possible to organize collection and awareness campaigns, but also to provide pocket and street ashtrays on the sidelines of cleaning operations.

In addition, the polluter pays principle will finance the development of projects aimed at finding new innovations and solutions for recycling cigarette ends. “While 23.5 billion cigarette butts are thrown on the ground or in nature each year in France, the objective is to reduce this quantity to a minimum of 40% in 6 years”, informs the Ministry of the Environment. Beyond pollution, you should know that cigarette butt throwing from a car window concerns more than 12% of French people, according to an Ipsos study, or more than one in three smokers. This, as a bonus, promotes the outbreak of fire, especially during the summer period.

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