Ban is best way to stop cigarette filter menace: minister

In Amsterdam, the butts were used to spell out #nofilterplease on the Dam. Photo: PlasticPeukMeuk
The results of a cigarette butt collection campaign. Photo: PlasticPeukMeuk

The best way of preventing cigarette filters from ending up in the environment is a ban, junior infrastructure minister Vivianne Heijnen has said in a briefing to MPs.

Heijnen said that an outright ban has been shown to be the most effective option to achieve the government target of reducing the number of filters in litter by 70%. The current measures – discouraging smoking and littering – would only reduce the problem by 15% by 2026.

Cigarette filters, which contain chemicals and microplastics, are extremely polluting and take about ten years to disintegrate.

It is not clear how many filters end up in the environment but based on the 10 billion cigarettes that are smoked each year, the estimated the number is between 240 million and 7.1 billion.

Heijenis also considered a deposit system which would see smokers hand in their butts to get their money back, but rejected the scheme as impractical. It could also  damage the health of teens who might find collecting butts a good way to earn money and give smoking ‘an unwanted positive connotation’, she said.

A ban on filters would have to be imposed Europe-wide, Heijnen said and could be included in the 2026 renewal of the European guideline on single-use plastics. A uniquely Dutch ban would be in contravention of the European free trade agreement, she said.

Heijen also wants local councils to ban smoking on beaches because the filters end up on the sea. More smoke-free festivals and smoke-free zones in public spaces are also among the measures proposed by Heijnen.

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