Toxic cigarette butts may get the flick

Australia’s waterways contain an estimated 7 million cigarette butts.Australia could be set to follow in New York’s footsteps by introducing eco-friendly, biodegradable cigarette filters.

The current plastic, chemical filters are Australia’s biggest litter scourge, with an estimated seven billion dumped each year, according to litter prevention body Keep Queensland Beautiful.

Chief executive David Curtin said an estimated 7 million of those end up in the country’s waterways, leaching chemicals into the water, as well as killing marine and wildlife, such as turtles, fish and birds.

Queensland LNP members at the party’s state conference supported a motion to urge the federal government to mandate a move towards biodegradable filters by 2020.

It was the subject of debate on the second day of the three day annual talkfest.

Prior to the vote, LNP Environment and Heritage Protection Policy committee chairman James Mackay urged party members to support the motion, describing it as a small step that would have enormous positive impacts.

“Cigarette filters are made of 12,000 tiny plastic fibres and they don’t biodegrade, which means they can stay in the environment for more than 10 years,” he said..

“Cigarette butts are everywhere, despite the best efforts of council to clean them up.”

Mr Mackay said there had been similar moves mandated internationally in recent times.

“It has come to my attention that the New York Senate and the Senate of the Philippines have both, in the past month or so, brought bills forward to do exactly what we are proposing,” he said.

Mr Curtin said cigarette butts were Queensland’s biggest rubbish headache.

“It’s the size people don’t consider. When you are throwing a bottle its very visible whereas cigarette butts, people won’t think about,” he said.

“They don’t completely break down and they also leach the toxins into the soil and which then, when it rains, leaches them into the waterways.

“In waterways, the marine life eat them and because they can’t digest them, they stay in their stomachs, they feel like they are full and they don’t eat.”

He said in a 20 day litter sweep across the Brisbane City Council and Redlands Counil last year, more than 14,000 were collected.

“It’s very time consuming, we have groups out on the ground doing clean-ups every day and doing litter audits and cigarette butts are far and away above everything else we find,” he said.

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