Where there’s smokers, there’s fires (ACT)

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2 December 2014



ACT residents are being warned of the dangers of littering cigarette butts this bushfire season.

Keep Australia Beautiful and the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ACTESA) issued the warning as the weather bureau predicted a warmer than normal summer season across most of the country and a high fire danger current for the ACT.

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.

“Cigarette butts account for the most amount of rubbish found along our state’s highways.

“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.’’

ACTESA Commissioner Dominic Lane said the ACTESA’s fire services in the ACT will be on high alert over summer.

“All Canberrans need to remain vigilant in ensuring that bush and grass fires do not occur from carelessly discarded cigarette butts,” Commissioner Lane said.

“This is a thoughtless act and it is reassuring that the fine has been increased this year as the dangers are very real that this could pose a threat to the community,” he said.

The Keep Australia Beautiful National Litter Index 2013/14 recently revealed the number of cigarette butts found in the ACT is 21 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.

It is an offence under the ACT Government’s Litter Act 2004 to deposit litter in a public place.  This includes littering with a cigarette butt (either lit or extinguished).

On 11 November 2014 fines for discarding lit cigarettes was increased from $200 to $300.

A variety of officers have powers to enforce the Litter Act, including City Rangers, officers from the Environment Protection Authority, park rangers and police officers. In day-to-day terms City Rangers and ACT Policing enforce the Litter Act.

Members of the community who witness other drivers throwing cigarette butts out the window of their vehicle are urged to call Canberra Connect on 13 22 81 and report the time of the offence and the vehicle’s registration number. An online form can also be filled out at www.tams.act.gov.au


Media contact:

Zoe Russell, Sequel PR – (07) 3251 8142 / 0403 090 911

ACTESA Media – (02) 6207 8564 (Not for broadcast or publication)

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.

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