Litter pickers in Filey collect almost 600 cigarette ends from beach in one day

Some of the cigarette ends collected during one day in Filey. PIC: Wendy Knipe
Some of the cigarette ends collected during one day in Filey. PIC: Wendy Knipe

Litter pickers in Filey are focusing on cigarette ends which one volunteer has described as an 'overlooked' issue.

Lisa O'Boyle, who lives in Filey, is the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's Waves of Waste coordinator for the town and organises fortnightly beach cleans.

Lisa O'Boyle collecting litter. PIC: Wendy Knipe

Lisa O'Boyle collecting litter. PIC: Wendy Knipe

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Lisa has always been interested in environmental issues but became more so when she moved to Filey from Bedford and saw the problem with litter on the beach.

During the latest organised beach clean, which took place last Sunday August, Lisa collected cigarette butts separately to highlight the extent of the problem.

In a survey area of 100m near Coble Landing 652 pieces of litter were collected of which 234 were cigarette ends and by the end of the day 580 had been collected.

Lisa is organising a litter pick specifically targeting this issue on Saturday August 24 as part of a national Blitz the Butt campaign which aims to clear up 1 million cigarette ends in a single day.

"[They're] not treated as litter, it's a huge issue," she said, "Lots of people will pick up larger bits of rubbish, but they don't want to pick up the cigarette ends. They're overlooked.

"We've been doing a beach clean before and a man put his cigarette end out into the sand next to us.

"The message is that this is litter. Please don't treats the ground as an ashtray. There's lots of bins but they're not used."

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Cigarette ends contain both plastic and arsenic and take years to degrade which can impact on wildlife, particularly birds and fish.

In July of this year an image captured by a wildlife photographer which showed a black skimmer bird feeding its chick a cigarette filter on a beach in Florida went viral online.

In the UK cigarette ends are recylced by TerraCycle who have partnered with JTI to create a cigarette waste programme.

Waste collected through the programme is sorted and separated before being repurposed.

Organic components such as tobacco, paper and ash are composted whilst filters are shredded, mixed with other recycled plastics and can be used for injection moulding or extrusion.

Lisa thinks it will take drastic action to change some people's mindsets when it comes to littering.

"I would like to see litterers fined. More people will come to a clean beach.

"The council fine for parking, why not for littering? It's a blight on society."

The Blitz The Butt clean takes place on Saturday August 24, starting at 11am at Heron Foods on Station Street.

Volunteers will then move through the town and onto the beach.

Hi vis vests, bags and pickers will be available for anyone who wants to join.

Find out more about the Blitz the Butt campaign here.