Cigarette filters containing plastic are highly polluting and should be banned in the Netherlands, according to a parliamentary motion submitted on Thursday by the pro-animal PvdD.
‘Cigarettes are number one in the top 10 most common forms of litter and an important “ingredient” in the plastic soup [plastics found in the ocean],’ the motion, drawn up by the party states.
‘Cigarette filters end up in nature and don’t biodegrade, or barely biodegrade. Instead, they leach microplastics and chemicals, with consequences for the environment and animals that come into contact with them.’
In a clean-up day organised by Dutch anti-litter group the Plastic Soup Foundation last year, cigarette filters were the most-discovered items of trash. They contain microfibres, a common type of microplastics found in the environment, which degrade poorly and are acknowledged by the EU to be a pollution and marine litter problem.
In a 2021 beach clean up, organised by Stichting De Noordzee, almost 2,900 volunteers collected 57,772 cigarette butts at 30 locations along the coast of the North Sea. In another annual city-based clean-up, around half a million butts were collected.
The PvdD motion suggests that alternatives are available and that, ‘until we reach a smoker-free generation’, the current filters, made from cellulose acetate, should be forbidden by law.
From next year, a new European Single Use Plastics Directive will mean that producers of single-use plastic will be charged with the responsibility and costs of cleaning them up, and the directive acknowledges that ‘tobacco product filters containing plastic are the second most found single-use plastic items on beaches in the Union’.
‘A ban on plastic cigarette filters is a necessary step in combatting plastic pollution,’ said Karl Beerenfenger, a campaign leader at the Plastic Peuken Collectief campaign group. ‘The tobacco industry would like to put the responsibility to clean up on the smoker, but awareness will never end pollution, and cleaning up is an impossible and prohibitively expensive task.’
When PvdD MP Eva Van Esch raised the question of a ban in a parliamentary commission debate in November, then infrastructure junior minister Steven van Weyenberg said that there was ‘currently no alternative’ for the plastic filter.
Instead of a ban, he said that he preferred to develop the national laws necessary to make manufacturers responsible for cleaning up.
The VSK, which represents the Dutch tobacco industry, acknowledges that the plastic from discarded cigarette butts is a ‘problem’ and says it will better inform consumers, while asking the government to ‘stimulate innovation’ in finding alternatives.
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