Sunday, May 31, 2009

Toxic Butts: Part 2

These are mini-bins. They're sold in the UK for about $5.00 each. They're cute containers for cigarette butts. At many a festival, I've seen people carrying old camera film canisters for their butts. Maybe if people had an attractive alternative, it wouldn't just be old hippies keeping the ground clean.

Toronto is looking for a way to get people to stop tossing cigarette butts on the ground. Before wide-spread indoor bans on smoking, butts and packaging added up to over 17% of all litter compared to less than 2% for candy wrappers. It surprises me that candy wrappers are so low - but most of my litter awareness is from schoolyards.


TO's considering following the strategy used in San Francisco: charge an additional 33 cents per pack to offset the costs of cleaning up everyone's butts. There's an article at the Star that you can comment on directly here.

If the goal is to get more cash to pay for clean-up, then add the tax. But if the goal here is to change people's behaviour to stop littering, a tax will do nothing. People who don't litter will also be taxed, and they might even start littering knowing they're now paying for the cleaning. If they want people to stop dropping their butts, they have to fine them for each butt dropped - heavily. They don't have to catch everyone every time, just enough people to make everyone nervous.

A different strategy was tried in Britain: a bunch of naturalists staged a nude campaign on the beaches to protest the amount of cigarette butts they have to tolerate. I won't attach a photo, but you can click on the link to check it out. They also got local establishments to pledge to keep their patron's butts in a bucket outside their stores, instead of on the beach. But of course, the real problem is the butts washing up from everywhere else. Even our butts are making their way to Britain. Pollution knows no boundaries.

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