Butt Out!

The other day as I was walking on the footpath outside our local pool, I passed two teenaged girls who were sharing a laugh while finishing up their ciggies. Still mid-conversation, they tossed their cigarette butts carelessly onto the path and walked away. I can’t get too comfortable in the saddle of this high horse because I have a vague inkling that I too may have been guilty of such infractions in my youth. But surely in this era of environmental responsibility such reckless littering is a thing of the past?

Apparently not…

According to Butt Free Australia, an organisation dedicated to reducing cigarette butt litter, 7 billion cigarette butts are being littered in Australia every year.

7 billion butts!

When you consider that each butt can take up to 15 years to biodegrade, that’s a lot of accumulated butts. Plus, as they decompose they can leach toxic chemicals into our ground and waterways. Let alone what they might do to my 1 year old who will surely pick one up in the park to suck on sometime soon. I haven’t caught him at it yet, but he had a good old go at a discarded rotting strawberry the other day and I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time. He does love his tucker…

So as someone who loathes everything about cigarettes including their butts, I asked myself what I could do…

I happily discovered that most states have a process for dobbing in butt littering drivers. If you spot someone throwing a cigarette butt out of their car window, you can note their rego number and the location of the incident and advise your state environmental authority. They will then issue the owner of the vehicle with a fine. In QLD it’s $200.

That’s all well and good. I have decided that as soon as I have personally picked up and responsibly discarded the 50 butts which I estimate I may have littered during the “only smoke when I drink” phase of my late teens and early 20s, I will duly commence dobbing in my fellow citizens. Bring it on…

But what about my teenage friends at the swimming centre? Unfortunately pedestrians don’t come with rego numbers. At the time, I simply ignored them (and their butts). I chose to turn a blind eye. I couldn’t be bothered with a confrontation, and I froze.

From now on though, I have decided I will ask the butt litterers to pick up their butts. And when they inevitably cast me a scornful look, I will smile and (using a tissue for hygiene) pick them up myself. Because they will surely be embarrassed and think twice the next time.

Or maybe they won’t. And in that case, the delicious feeling of moral superiority as I walk away will just have to be its own reward…

Thursday 18th October 2012 will be Australia’s first annual “National Butt Free Day”. I plan to make good the folly of my youth on this day and pick up my 50 butts. It shouldn’t be that hard – there will be plenty to choose from…


Image courtesy of Bill Longshaw/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


6 thoughts on “Butt Out!

  1. Three cheers for your environmental stance, Charlotte and I wish you all the best with your crusade. I must insist, though, that you give us a blow by blow (or is that puff by puff?) account of your first ever dropped butt intervention when it happens. I can imagine that it may prove to be quite entertaining. I wonder if they will tell you not to be a buttinsky???

    • Thank you for your support Pirate Fairy.
      After further careful consideration, I have decided that there may be some cases in which I might continue to turn a blind eye. For example, if the butt flicker has serious muscles and/or several visible tattoos of frightening mythical creatures…
      Those circumstances aside, I hereby embark upon my quest and look forward to sharing my stories with you. 🙂

  2. When I lived in Sydney, I was out jogging with my now husband and we saw a fellow drop his cigarette butt at the foot of a tree along The Pacific Highway. I stopped him and said “Excuse me, you dropped something”. He was ashamed and picked the butt up. I felt so proud of myself. I will join you in this quest.

    • Fantastic! Butt Free Day was last Thursday, so the kids and I went to our local park after school pick up to carry out the unsavoury task. I found 44 butts, so I still have 6 to go before I can legitimately get on my high horse. 🙂

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