No butts about it – NSW on track to cut cigarette litter


NSW is developing its first targeted cigarette butt litter reduction program after a trial showed targeted interventions could prevent more than 790 million cigarette butts polluting the environment each year, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment announced today.

Cigarette butts are the most littered item in NSW, making up almost 4 of every 10 littered items. Current data suggests only 40 per cent of cigarette butts are put in the bin, with more than 1.3 billion butts entering the litter stream each year.
Butts are made from plastic and don’t break down, which means they persist in the environment and cause damage to plants and animals. They are also an expensive item to clean up.
In 2018 the NSW Litter Prevention Unit worked with 16 councils trialling different interventions at 40 smoking hotspots including transport hubs, shopping strips, parks, outside licensed venues and office blocks.
DPIE Executive Director Circular Economy and Resource Management Sanjay Sridher said this was the most comprehensive review of smoker behaviour ever conducted in Australia.
“The results of our world-first intervention trials are fantastic with an overall 53% improvement in binning rates. The NSW Litter Prevention Unit is now using the trial results for a new litter program targeting cigarette butts,” Mr Sridher said.
“If we introduce this right across NSW, it would mean round 795 million more cigarette butts going in the bin and staying out of the environment.
“We know that nine out of 10 people in NSW think littering is unacceptable and we’re encouraging everyone to do the right thing with their rubbish.”
City of Ryde Mayor Jerome Laxale said Ryde recorded great results in the trial interventions to reduce cigarette butt litter at sites at Meadowbank Train Station, West Ryde, and Top Ryde City Shopping Centre.
All three sites showed significant improvements in cigarette butt binning rates of between 26-48%.
“Council will be utilising the results of the trial to install similar messaging and methods of reducing cigarette butt litter in target hotspot locations throughout Ryde. The City of Ryde continually works to provide a “Smarter, Cleaner, Greener” environment for the community and this initiative will contribute to meeting our goals,” Mr Laxale said.
The new Cigarette Butt Litter Prevention Program includes the delivery of guidelines and resources, a review of existing litter enforcement strategies, and a targeted behaviour change campaign with the highly recognised Don’t Be A Tosser! campaign.
It is part of NSW’s first Litter Prevention Strategy, also published this month along with a new Report Card showing how NSW is working to reduce litter volume.
The Strategy is funded to June 2021 through the $50 million commitment to litter prevention under the Waste Less, Recycle More initiative, with $500,000 earmarked for grant programs that will specifically target cigarette butt litter.
The full cigarette butt report and Litter Prevention Strategy are available online.
  • Cigarette butts are toxic, made of plastic, leach into the environment and don’t break down
  • 1.32 billion butts are littered in NSW each year
  • Cigarette butts make up 39% of all littered items in NSW– they are the state’s most littered item
  • You can be fined $80 for littering a cigarette butt, or $250 for tossing a cigarette from a vehicle. These fines are even higher if the cigarette is lit and if a total fire ban is in place.
  • If the strategies from the Cigarette Butt Reduction Trial were replicated across NSW, around 795 million more cigarette butts would go in the bin – lined up end-to-end, those butts would reach from Sydney to London and beyond
/Public Release.