The Belgian capital has big plans for cigarette butts that are thrown on the street. In addition to raising awareness and installing urban ashtrays, the plan includes a four-fold increase in fines and a partnership for recycling collected cigarette butts.
Tossing a cigarette butt on the ground could set you back €200 in Brussels
Brussels: the Belgian capital, is increasing its fines for smokers who throw their cigarette ends on the ground. The fine will be a four-fold increase of the previous amount: €200 up from €50. The Alderman responsible for the new measure, Zoubida Jellab, has announced an awareness campaign, the installation of a number of receptacles for cigarette ends, and a proposed partnership with the Belgian start-up We Circular to recycle the collected butts.
Smokers in Brussels had better mind their butts from now on
Around 30% of the litter in the streets of Brussels consists of carelessly discarded cigarette butts. The Cleaning Service has to pick up thousands of them every day. And because they are so small and often surrounded by paving stones, this makes the work of street sweepers extra difficult.
Environmental hazard. Aside from cigarette butts making the public spaces look dirty, they pose a very real danger to the environment. Throwing a butt on the ground takes barely a second, but its breakdown time varies between 10 and 15 years. During that time, their more than 4,000 chemical components can cause enormous damage to the environment, especially if they end up in the sewer system. For example, they could be carried out to sea, where a single cigarette butt can pollute up to 500 liters of water.
Raising awareness… and ashtrays. The plan of the City is to raise awareness in a first phase through a poster campaign, flyers and street campaigns such as handing out pocket ashtrays for those who do smoke. Furthermore, a network of public ashtrays will be installed and clearly visible signs will be placed on existing garbage cans with ashtrays and a extinguishing system.
Fines and recycling. If, despite these measures, people still throw their butt on the ground or in the sewers, the City will act with increased fines. Those flouting the ban risk a fine of €50* at present. As from 1 January, this will become €200.
*That is, if you are caught red-handed by a city officer (more than 50 civil servants who are sworn officers from the Public Cleaning Service can issue the fine). Note that at present, any police officer can also catch you red-handed; in which case the fine would be €250, an amount that remains unchanged.
The City is also working on a partnership with the Belgian start-up We Circular to recycle the collected butts.
Bans on plastic trash items are making a difference
Bans really are working and making a difference. Ireland is set to say goodbye to plastic cutlery, plastic balloon sticks and grocery items wrapped in plastic once and for all as a way to drastically reduce the amount of waste in Irish landfills.
The city of San Francisco recently moved to ban the sale of plastic bottles on city-owned properties.
New York State lawmakers agreed to impose a statewide ban on most types of single-use plastic bags from retail sales to curb an unsightly and omnipresent source of litter.
And even Disneyland Paris announced a series of measures to make Europe’s biggest private tourist attraction more environmentally friendly, including banning plastic straws.
Bans are working. They are not the whole answer, but for now they are helping in the fight against plastic trash getting into the environment.
We would love to see these kind of fines in every town and city.
For those who do wish to smoke, there is a wide selection of portable pocket mini-ashtrays available.
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