Government mulls ‘regulatory approach’ to cigarette-related litter

The government is considering a “regulatory approach” to the issue of cigarette-related litter, potentially via new powers set out in the emerging Environment Bill, environment minister Rebecca Pow has announced.

According to a statement issued by DEFRA yesterday, the “vast majority of cigarette butts are single-use plastic and contain hundreds of toxic chemicals once smoked”, while “littered cigarette filters can persist in the environment for many years and release these chemicals to air, land and water, harming plant growth and wildlife”.

Among the options being looked at by ministers to tackle the issue is a regulatory extended producer responsibility scheme for cigarette butts in England, a new power currently being legislated for in the Environment Bill.

“This would require the tobacco industry to pay the full disposal costs of tobacco waste products, ensuring the sector takes sufficient financial responsibility for the litter its products create,” the statement said.

DEFRA said that the move followed a roundtable meeting in September on the issue.

“Having considered further evidence, the government has decided that a regulatory approach may be required to ensure that the industry takes sufficient financial responsibility for the litter created by its products and to prevent them from undermining public health policy.

“Further research will be undertaken to consider the next steps to tackle smoking-related litter. The government will continue to work closely with charities, tobacco product manufacturers and associated trade bodies to address the issue,” the statement said.

Pow said: “Cigarette butts are a blight on our communities, littering our streets or ending up washed down the drain and polluting our rivers and oceans.

“We must all take action to protect our environment. We are committed to making sure that the tobacco industry plays its part. That is why we are exploring how cigarette companies can be held fully accountable for the unsightly scourge of litter created by their products.”

Last week, the government published consultations on the introduction of a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and extended producer responsibility for packaging.

In October last year, measures came into effect banning businesses in England from selling single-use plastic straws, cotton buds, and drink stirrers.

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