A marine wildlife charity is calling for a new campaign on litter after a survey showed a massive increase in litter on British beaches, with rubbish associated with smoking doubling in the year to 2012.
The number of cigarette butts discarded on our beaches doubled according to the survey. Other smoking detritus was also up massively, with discarded lighters and the numbers of cigarette packets thrown away on the sand up by 90%.
Other litter was also up, but by much smaller amounts. Plastic litter, including confectionary wrappers, was up by 3% in the study carried out by the Marine Conservations Society (MCS) and called beachwatch big weekend.
The charity is particularly concerned that 65% of the rubbish found in the snapshot survey was made of plastic, which does not biodegrade and can stay for decades causing damage and injury to coastal wildlife. Each 1,000 yard of beach studied contained 75 drinks bottles.
MCS is calling for a new campaign on littering to tackle the increase in rubbish.
The charity says that the huge rise in smoking-related rubbish may be because of the smoking ban in enclosed public places.
The smoking ban in England came into force on July 1, 2007, as part of the Health Act 2006. It followed earlier bans in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, making it illegal to smoke in any enclosed work places in the entire UK.
The ban marked the completion of a phased process. The first ban was on smoking in all NHS and government buildings in 2006.
The law bans lighting up in any public workplace. Attempts to exempt private members’ clubs and public houses were defeated.
However, there are some exceptions to the rules, including bus shelters, some hotel rooms, prisons and even tobacconists where sampling of cigars and pipe tobaccos is allowed.
While cigarette littering was up massively in 2012, items related to smoking were not the commonest found in the MCS survey. That honour goes to unidentified pieces of plastic, followed by crisps, sweet wrappers, pieces of string, drinks bottle tops, pieces of polystyrene and drink bottles.
The survey was carried out by volunteers, who looked at 240 beaches amounting to 56 miles of the British coast line. The charity records the number of pieces of litter per kilometre – this figure was up from 1,741 in 2011 to slightly more than 2,000 pieces of litter in 2012.
Litter: The Remains of Our Culture
Only one-fifth of the litter came from the sea. Northern Ireland had the dirtiest beaches, in England the worst area was the south west, while in the north west of England the amount of litter actually fell by 60%.
While smoking has been decreasing for decades in the UK, the smoking ban has pushed people outside.
One of the alternatives to smoking people are exploring are e-cigarettes. These were first sold in China in 2004, before hitting international markets in 2009. According to Ash, the UK anti-smoking charity, estimated the number of UK e-cigarette users – or vapers – at 700,000 in 2011, and predicted that in 2012, that number would rise to 1million. If smokers are switching to cheap e-liquid e-cigarettes as an alternative that can only be good news for MCS. E-cigarettes don’t leave butts or ash, and typically users buy refillable machines which last for a long time.