More than 80 volunteers across the country joined Our Seas Our Future over Seaweek, collecting over 6,250 cigarette butts in one hour.
The non-profit marine conservation group ran a series of cigarette butts focused clean-ups last week on some of New Zealand’s main beaches and streets. The campaign, No Butts, aims to address the adverse environmental effects of cigarette butts and encourage responsible butt disposal.
OSOF spokesperson Lesl van der Voorn says, “Cigarette butts are the most littered items across the world and one of the worst contaminants in our oceans.”
“Many of the cigarette butts we collected during our beach clean-ups were only on the sand’s surface. You’d expect to find a lot littering our streets, as you see them all the time but to find such large quantities on our coasts is particularly concerning. Without trying, we accumulated a considerable amount in just an hour – who knows how many are floating in the sea or are beneath the sand,” she says.
In addition to collecting cigarette butts, during the clean-ups volunteers gathered over 425 litres of general rubbish, a proportion of which consisted of microplastics.
Miss van der Voorn says that because cigarette butts are so small many people don’t perceive them as litter as they might other items.
“The smaller the item is, the easier it can be ingested by animals. Other than toxic compounds like nicotine, cigarette butts often consist of plastic filters which break down into microplastics. Once in the ocean, these microplastics can become consumed by marine animals – and sometimes humans.”
“It just proves that we can’t forget about the small items and things we often can’t see. Cigarette butts and microplastics are just as a risk to our environment as many other littered and plastic objects.”
“Aside from giving up smoking, this risk can be mitigated by disposing of cigarette butts responsibly,” she says.
A total of five clean-ups took place in Dunedin CBD, Nelson Quay, Oriental Bay, Takapuna Beach and Sumner Beach.