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No butts about it, stompies destroy ocean life

05 June 2017 - 10:17 By Nashira Davids
Singapore joins countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK in banning cigarette displays in stores.
Singapore joins countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK in banning cigarette displays in stores.
Image: AFP Relaxnews

Cigarette butts weighing more than a female hippo are collected by cleaning crew in the Cape Town CBD every year.

In 2011 academics from San Diego in the US estimated that 4.5trillion butts are tossed every year around the world. These butts are not just a nuisance but have devastating effects on oceans, according to an article published by the UN Development Programme.

The Cape Town Central Improvement District's management precinct - which covers 1.62km² - said about 1722kg of stompies were collected last year. It has decided to replicate a UK charity's idea to keep the butts off the street.

Hubbub's encourages smokers to vote on something topical using a ballot bin. Voters chose one of two slots to drop their butts. Each slot has a display window which allows the "opinion poll to be generated as the old butts pile up on either side" according to the charity's website.

In the UK people have managed to reduce butt litter dramatically.

The Cape Town initiative said the activation has been a "huge success". Smokers were asked: "Belieber or Non-Belieber?"

The results were split equally.

"We'll be taking the lessons learnt from this experiment to see how we can move forward," said Richard Beesley, manager of the CCID's Urban Management Department.

"Clearly, behavioural change can be achieved if you engage directly with the public in a fun or highly interactive way."

The CCID also dished out 30,000 pocket ashtrays with flame-retardant lining allowing a ''smoker to stub out a stompie responsibly".

Roy Small, a policy analyst for the UNDP, has warned about the dangers of the butts.

"Cigarette filters comprise thousands of chemical ingredients, including arsenic, lead, nicotine and ethyl phenol, all of which leak into aquatic environments.

"In one lab study the leachate from just one cigarette butt leaked into no more than one litre of water, killed half of all exposed marine and freshwater fish," wrote Small on the website on May 24.

This year's ocean conference starts today in New York, ending on Friday - hot on the heels of World No Tobacco Day on May 31.