Rubbish Acts: 5.5 million cigarette butts will be littered at UK festivals this summer

  • Smokers in the UK, on average, will smoke 8.8 cigarettes when at an outdoor festival*
  • Smokers are three times LESS likely to see cigarette butts as problem litter, compared to non-smokers**
  • Box Your Butts: Keep Britain Tidy is providing Butt Boxes (aka portable ashtrays) to reduce cigarette butt litter

Keep Britain Tidy has revealed that an estimated 5.5 million cigarette butts are expected to be littered during this summer’s 30 biggest festivals***.

While cigarette litter is an ever present problem, the issue is exacerbated at festivals due to increased smoking rates – smokers in the UK, on average will smoke 8.8 cigarettes when at a festival* – and a lack of access to bins at a festival.

An overwhelming 46% of smokers say they sometimes don’t dispose of their cigarette butts correctly when attending a festival*. Two-fifths (40%) of those who admit to dropping their butts on ground say it’s due to not wanting to push through the crowd to find a bin, while another 20% say it was because they believe cigarettes decompose naturally*.

Cigarette butts are made of plastic and do not biodegrade, so when dropped on the ground they can take up to 14 years to break apart, harming wildlife and polluting where we live. Furthermore, due to their small size and the fact they’ve been trampled into the ground by thousands of festival goers, cigarette butts are often left behind by clean-up crews and can cause long lasting impact to the parks and farms where they are held.

Year after year, the shocking images of the rubbish left behind after festivals make their way into the mainstream media – and while many items are big enough to be picked up by volunteers and clear-up crews, cigarette butts pose a much bigger challenge.

To help tackle the issue, environmental charity  Keep Britain Tidy is urging people to ‘box their butts’ this summer.

They will be making portable ashtrays, AKA Butt Boxes available to smokers from the 24th June. You can search ‘Box your Butts’ to order a portable ashtray, arriving in time for festivals and outdoor events over the summer. The boxes are smell-proof, so no odours leak into your pocket, and are made from 100% recycled materials and can themselves be recycled.

Keep Britain Tidy will also be handing out Butt Boxes at some of the UK’s largest festivals this summer, including American Express presents BST Hyde Park, Boomtown and Cardiff Pride. Just keep an eye out for the Keep Britain Tidy team.

Keep Britain Tidy’s Chief Executive, Allison Ogden-Newton OBE says, “Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the UK and the consequences for our environment are far more significant than many realise. This summer, 5.5 million butts are expected to be dropped during the UK’s festival season – creating an impossible task for volunteers and festival clear-up crews.

We need smokers’ attitudes to cigarette litter to change so that it is no longer viewed as ‘acceptable’. Instead it should be seen as millions of pieces of single-use plastic polluting the environment and threatening wildlife. We want smokers to order a Butt Box and take responsibility for disposing of their rubbish properly”.