Where there’s smokers, there’s fires (VIC)
2 December 2014
Victorians are being warned of the dangers of littering cigarette butts this bushfire season.
Keep Australia Beautiful and the Country Fire Authority Victoria issued the warning as the weather bureau predicted a warmer than normal summer season across most of the country.
There is currently a high to very high Fire Danger Rating for most areas of Victoria.
Keep Australia Beautiful Chief Executive Officer Peter McLean said it was no secret cigarette butts are public enemy number one when it comes to littering.
“More than seven billion butts are discarded in Australia each year. If placed end to end they would extend 144,000 kilometres and circle the planet 3.6 times,” Mr McLean said.
“Nationally, thousands of fires a year are caused by cigarettes and smokers’ materials.
“The Royal Commission into the 2009 Victorian bushfires identified cigarette butts as one of the likely causes of bushfires in the Australian environment.
“Not only are drivers who flick their cigarette butts out the window polluting the environment, they’re also potentially causing dangerous bushfires. You may have a licence to drive, but you don’t have a licence to litter.’’
CFA Chief Officer Euan Ferguson said grassfires could start and take hold very quickly as a result of a carelessly discarded cigarette butt.
“Cigarette butts are one of the main causes of fires along freeways, as well as exit and entry ramps and nature strips,” Mr Ferguson said.
“It is crucial that people place their cigarette butts in car ashtrays and are not thrown from car windows.
“People should think twice about littering cigarette butts as each one has potential to cause a fire.”
The Keep Australia Beautiful National Litter Index 2013/14 recently revealed the number of cigarette butts found in Victoria is 14 butts per 1,000m².
“I’ve had a lit cigarette hit me in the face that was flicked out of a car window before; people are just not getting the message,” Mr McLean said.
According to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Victoria you can be fined $295 to $590 for discarding cigarette butts from a vehicle depending if it’s lit or not.
As a result of the EPA’s public litter reporting service which enables members of the public to report people who throw litter from Victorian-registered motor vehicles, more than 20,000 people are reported to EPA every year.
Eighty-six per cent of litter fines EPA issues relate to lit and unlit cigarette butts being thrown from vehicles.
The public is encouraged to report littering from vehicles online at http://www.epa.vic.gov.au/get-involved/report-litter or by phone 1300 EPA VIC (1300 372 842).
Media contact: Zoe Russell, Sequel PR – (07) 3251 8142 / 0403 090 911
About Keep Australia Beautiful: Keep Australia Beautiful is the national peak body on litter prevention. With more than four decades of experience in engaging Australians to care for their local environments, (not to be confused with Clean Up Australia Day) KAB Programs include Sustainable Cities, Tidy Towns, Clean Beaches, National Litter Index, Eco-Schools, Adopt a Patch, and Keep Australia Beautiful Week in August.
The KAB National website is www.kab.org.au where all information on the organisation can be accessed including the National Litter Index, which is Australia’s only independent nation-wide litter research.