Plastic cigarette filters are having a “horrific environmental impact” on Scotland’s beaches, according to public health and environmental groups.
ASH Scotland has said that almost 3.65 billion cigarettes smoked in Scotland each year contain a filter made of the plastic ‘cellulose acetate’. It added that plastic cigarette stubs take over ten years to decompose, and leach thousands of toxic chemicals into Scottish waters.
The organisation has teamed up with the Marine Conservation Society, Zero Waste Scotland, Scottish Water and Keep Scotland Beautiful for World No-Tobacco Day on Tuesday.
They are calling on the Scottish Government to take legislative action to tackle the negative impacts of plastic cigarette filters and include the items in the single-use plastic ban.
The ban, set to come into force on Wednesday, June 1, mainly restricts the usage of disposable plastic food and drink utensils.
While littering is illegal in Scotland, the groups are calling for the ban to make it “easy for people to do the right thing”, said Catherine Gee, deputy chief executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful.
She added: “Cigarette litter is by far the most common littered item found in Scotland … these tiny plastic litter items need to be eradicated – no ifs, no butts!”
The Marine Conservation Society says that its beach clean and litter surveys since the beginning of the year have seen volunteers remove over 1,200 cigarette stubs from 129 beach cleans on Scottish shores.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, said: “Cigarette filters continue to be a major source of plastics pollution with an estimated 600,000 kg of waste, enough to fill 50 bin lorries, threatening Scotland’s environment each year.
“We are also increasingly concerned about the noticeable escalation of littering and pollution risks caused by discarded single use disposable vaping products that contain single use plastics as well as toxic chemicals and battery components.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Littering is illegal, unsightly and harmful to our communities, environment and wildlife – there is no excuse for this behaviour anywhere in Scotland.
“We have recently consulted on a new litter and fly tipping strategy for Scotland, and will be publishing the final strategy this year. Cigarette products are among the most common types of litter in Scotland and we are exploring whether we need to take additional action to tackle this issue.
“We’ve already taken action to ban some of the most harmful single-use plastics, including microbeads, plastic-stemmed cotton buds, cutlery, plates and straws. Last month we launched a call for evidence on measures to reduce consumption of other single-use items including plastic tobacco filters, with the intention of using the findings to help reduce the impact they have on the Scottish environment.”