Cigarette butts have increasingly become one of our major litter issues. The problem has escalated to a greater extent in recent years, due in part to government legislation that restricts smoking in public buildings and restaurants.  This, in turn, forces smokers outside, where butts are often littered.

Cigarette butts may seem small - however, with an estimated 28.5 million cigarette butts (equivalent to 14,3 tons) being discarded annually in the Hermanus CBD (an area of 0,25 km²) alone, the toxic chemicals contained within add up.

“We still find huge amounts of waste that make it into the ocean. Especially plastic bottle caps, straws, and cigarette butts. People tend to think that these are small pieces of rubbish and will not make a difference, especially when it is thrown into drains,” says Anina Lee of Whale Coast Conservation (WCW).

“The battle against waste is not solely won by clean-up operations, but by making people aware of what they are throwing away and where they are doing it,” she added.

To that end, smokers, for instance, should refrain from flicking cigarette butts out of car windows, or to dispense of these in an open grassland area when using public amenities such as camping sites, beaches, and braai areas.

Rather, use a portable cigarette butt holder available on the market or something as simple as an empty bottle or can laden with a bit of water to dispose of butts.

Aside from the obvious risk of fires, discarded butts are taking a toll on our waterways and marine life. A commonly held misnomer is that cigarette butts are biodegradable, but actually, they’re not. The plastic in the filter can take up to 10 years to decompose. There are also chemicals in cigarette butts that are toxic to marine life.

So what can I do?

Always dispose of cigarette butts responsibly. Smokers, for instance, should refrain from flicking cigarette butts out of car windows, or to dispense of these in an open grassland area when using public amenities such as camping sites, beaches and braai areas.

Rather, use a portable cigarette butt holder available on the market or something as simple as an empty bottle or can laden with a bit of water to dispose of butts.

Businesses and other organisations looking for permanent cigarette butt litter solutions can contact the Whale Coast Conservation for a designed butt bin. The bins are locally manufactured and thus provide employment. You can sponsor a bin at a cost of R450 per bin. For more information, contact Anina Lee at 028 316 2527 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Any incidents of illegal dumping can be reported to the Overstrand’s control room on 028 313 8000/ 8111. For day to day law enforcement complaints, phone 028 313 8980.

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