How many times have you sat on the beach and found yourself surrounded by cigarette butts?
Cigarette butts continue to be the main source of rubbish found on our Surf Coast – a disappointing result considering the Surf Coast Shire was the first municipality to ban smoking on its beaches.
In 2008, cigarette butts made up 30 per cent of rubbish collected nation-wide by Clean Up Australia and little has changed since.
Great Ocean Road Coast Committee conservation officer Georgie Beale said cigarette butts are everywhere on the coast despite the “no butts” ban on Surf Coast beaches.
“We literally pick up hundreds of butts every time we do a beach cleanup,” she said.
Why do cigarette butts continue to be a problem?
President of the Surf Coast branch of the Surfrider Foundation, John Foss said that cigarette litter will remain a prominent issue in our area because of the huge increase in population and visitation.
“In general there has been a reduction in the number of cigarette butts found on Surf Coast beaches throughout the year however the amount of butts found on our beaches during summer remains the same.
“It’s noticable after hot days and big crowds that we will find more butts along the high tide marks in the sand and on the beaches in general,” he said.
Cosy Corner, Torquay and Torquay Surf Beach have the highest visitations on the Surf Coast during the summer months and as a result are the most frequently littered areas.
Why are cigarette butts so bad for the coast?
Mr. Foss said cigarette butts can have significant negative impacts, mostly on birdlife and the marine environment.
‘Cigarette butts find their way into rockpools and the ocean, then leach toxic chemicals into the marine environment,” he said.
In seawater, cigarette butts can take up to five years to breakdown. After the butts lose their colour, birds and other marine life often mistake them for food.
Also, when cigarettes are carelessly flicked out of vehicles they can smoulder for up to three hours and can cause fires.
“I’ve seen cars pull up at Torquay Surf Beach and dump their ashtrays out the car window straight into the gutter which flows to the sea,” said Mr. Foss
For more information on cigarette butts, please click here to read Clean up Australia’s fact sheet.
What is being done to resolve this issue?
The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee along with other volunteer groups conduct beach clean ups along coast.
“Students from St. Bernards College Santa Monica have conducted clean ups between Moggs Creek and Grassy Creek and have collected up to 1010 butts in one session” said, Wally Smith, Technical Director of the Tangaroa Blue Foundation.
Specific local data also compiled by the Tangaroa Blue Foundation shows that cigarette butts make up 22 per cent of all items collected off beaches.
What can I do to help?
Joining a working bee is a rewarding way to give back to community and environment.
The Surfrider Foundation conduct regular working bees along the Surf Coast.
According to Mr. Foss, stopping beach litter is as much about protecting the habitat as it is about keeping our beaches clean.
“If you see anyone doing the wrong thing, please ask them to stop and take their litter home or back to their car,” he said.
Below is a video created by GORCC which gives you more ideas on how you can care for the coast:
Check out our other blogs on litter: