Where there’s smokers, there’s fires (QLD)
2 December 2014
Queenslanders are being warned of the dangers of littering cigarette butts this bushfire season.
Keep Australia Beautiful and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) 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 much of Queensland.
Keep Australia Beautiful Chief Executive Officer Peter McLean said it was no secret cigarette butts were public enemy number one when it came 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.’’
Rural Fire Service Queensland (RFSQ) Assistant Commissioner Neil Gallant said Queensland firefighters were called to hundreds of roadside fires every year, many caused by discarded cigarette butts.
“Cigarette butts are one of the major causes of dangerous roadside fires which can be avoided if people don’t throw cigarette butts from their cars,” Mr Gallant said.
“Every cigarette butt flicked out a car window has the potential to spark a fire which could threaten lives and property and place an enormous burden on emergency services.
“The smoke haze caused by these fires also has the potential to cause serious accidents, particularly on the highway when people are travelling at high speed.
“We’re asking people to think about the consequences of their actions, be responsible and help prevent bushfires.”
The Keep Australia Beautiful National Litter Index 2013/14 recently revealed the number of cigarette butts found in Queensland is 33 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 Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) 5748 infringement notices have been issued through the online reporting system for littering from a vehicle since 1 February 2012.
Of these, 5113 infringement notices involved a cigarette butt being deposited before entering a vehicle, from a vehicle, or after exiting a vehicle.
The fine for discarding a cigarette butt from a vehicle is $227. Where an incident of littering has sufficient evidence to be identified as an act of dangerous littering, the fine is $455.
The public is encouraged to report littering and illegal dumping online at https://report-littering-dumping.ehp.qld.gov.au.
Media contact: Zoe Russell, Sequel PR – (07) 3251 8142 / 0403 090 911
Queensland Fire & Emergency Services Media – (07) 3635 3310
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.