Liverpool launches #BinTheButt campaign to protect River Mersey

Liverpool City Council has joined forces with environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy to #BintheButt to stamp out cigarette litter, which causes significant damage to marine life in the River Mersey.

Smokers in the city are being asked to rethink how they dispose of their cigarettes, as research reveals that only half (53%) of people know that cigarette butts can get washed into the sea if they are dropped down the drain.

It is estimated that 3.6 million smokers in the UK have dropped a cigarette down the drain in the past month, whilst new research has found that just one cigarette butt per litre of water is highly toxic to fish.

A YouGov survey for Keep Britain Tidy found that just under four in ten (39%) smokers admit to throwing a cigarette butt down a drain within the past month. However, one in ten (11%) do not even consider cigarette butts to be litter.

Just over a third (38%) of smokers know that cigarettes contain plastic, yet nearly four out of five (77%) smokers were concerned that the toxins from their cigarettes cause significant harm to marine life. 

Cigarette filters are comprised of thousands of chemical ingredients, including arsenic, lead and nicotine, all of which can leak into marine environments.

The research also showed that over a third of daily smokers (33%) thought that cigarette butts that get dropped down the drain were filtered out in water treatment, 8% thought they remained in the drains and 10% thought butts were biodegradable.

The #BinTheButt awareness campaign is the latest instalment of the new Keep Liverpool Tidy partnership, between the city council and Keep Britain Tidy, which is a wider programme to improve the city’s cleanliness.

Earlier in the year, the city council invited Keep Britain Tidy to carry out a city-wide inspection. More than 300 sites were assessed and the survey found litter and graffiti in Liverpool to be three times that of the national average.

In response, the city council, which spends £9.5m a year cleaning up litter, has embarked on a year-long environmental action programme, with a specific focus on litter in parks, dog fouling, flytipping and commercial waste.

The council has also recently launched the UK’s first underground superbin scheme in densely built up residential areas to tackle black bin bag waste and vermin related issues.

Councillor Liam Robinson, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, said: “We all know of the dangers of smoking to our lungs, but thanks to this research we now know the impact it can have on our environment, especially the River Mersey.

“It’s hugely concerning that so many smokers don’t consider cigarette butts to be litter, and by dropping them into a drain think ‘that’s ok, it will break down and no harm done’. The fact is, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The chemicals involved are toxic and deadly to marine life. And given how much has been invested over the years in cleaning up the Mersey we really need to address this issue.

“There are bins everywhere in this city, so if people do choose to smoke – all we are saying is #BinTheButt. Don’t flick it on the floor where it can be washed away, or directly down the drain. This is littering with far reaching consequences.

“As a council we’ll continue to double down on our efforts to tackle litter, as we’ve seen with the undergrounds bins and bigger bins for our parks – all we ask in return is the public play their part too. And together we can make a really big difference in keeping Liverpool – and the Mersey – clean and tidy and making our city one that we can all be proud of.”

Keep Britain Tidy CEO Allison Ogden Newton, said: “Following Sir David Attenborough’s rallying cry to reduce plastic waste ahead of Cop 27, #BinTheButt aims to show how simple everyday behaviour can affect the environment.

“While flicking a cigarette down the drain may not seem harmful, we need to ensure smokers understand that this has a direct and often drastic impact on wildlife.

“Our research showed that more than a fifth (22%) of Brits thought putting a cigarette down the drain was acceptable, which rose sharply to over half (52%) among smokers who smoke every day. We need to challenge this view, and get the message to smokers that this is still littering.

“We are delighted that Liverpool City Council is working with us to encourage smokers to #BinTheButt and stop the flow of plastic, toxic cigarette butts into our rivers like the Mersey and into the Irish Sea.”

Liverpool Director of Public Health Matthew Ashton added: “The most effective way to reduce smoking related litter is to stop smoking altogether. Quitting smoking  protects the environment but at the same time immediately reduces the health related harms experienced by smokers.

“The most effective way to quit smoking is with the support of a specialist stop smoking service, I would therefore urge people to access the free support we have available in Liverpool.”  

For support and advice on quitting call 0800 061 4212 or Text 66777. Further information can be accessed on line at www.smokefreeliverpool.co.uk

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