Butt out! Anti-plastic campaigners collect cigarette waste across Netherlands

In Amsterdam, the butts were used to spell out #nofilterplease on the Dam. Photo: PlasticPeukMeuk

Eleven environmental organisations have organised a massive collection of discarded cigarette butts across the Netherlands ending on Saturday 10 July.

The “plastic peukmeuk” litter-pick invites people in 60 different places to start collecting the butts at 11.30am and post pictures of their work by 3pm on a special app, Litterati. Campaigners, who are walking from Amsterdam’s central station to Dam square, will use the cigarette butts they collect to make a giant artwork inspired by their hashtag #nofilterplease.

Indy Schumacher, who works on social media at Sea Going Green, one of the organisations, told DutchNews.nl that they aim to put pressure on government to force cigarette manufacturers to change their filters, which typically contain a form of plastic, cellulose acetate and do not biodegrade.

‘I think a lot of people are still unaware of how harmful the filters inside cigarette butts are,’ she told DutchNews.nl. ‘Our main goals are to raise awareness on  how harmful the plastics in these filters are, and that they are not needed: we think it’s also a smoker’s right to know this. But also to make the government force the tobacco producers to take responsibility for this form of plastic pollution.’

The campaigners claim that filters are a ‘marketing tool’ that encourage smokers to smoke faster, and buy more. They also argue that article 8 of a new European directive about producers’ responsibility in cleaning up litter from single-use plastic products means tobacco manufacturers should pick up the costs.

Schumacher said that while smokers should avoid dropping cigarette litter, the goal was broader. ‘We believe that just by focusing on communication campaigns, we won’t achieve our goals so we have to focus on government and tobacco producers to make them take responsibility,’ she said. ‘Just making people aware of how they should behave responsibly, we won’t get there.

In an action last year, the anti-plastic campaigners picked up 142,000 cigarette butts. As part of a longer challenge, some people who have been collecting since 10 June this year have so far picked up more than 117,000 butts.

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