Smokers across the UK are being called on by Keep Britain Tidy to rethink how they dispose of cigarettes. Research has revealed that only 53% of Brits know that cigarette butts get washed into the sea if they are dropped down the drain.
This research, made possible thanks to support from players of People's Postcode Lottery, was carried out for Keep Britain Tidy by YouGov.
The research showed that 33% of daily smokers thought that cigarette butts that get dropped down the drain were filtered out in water treatment, 8% thought they remained in the drains and 10% thought butts were biodegradable.
Keep Britain Tidy is launching a billboard campaign across the country this week to raise awareness among smokers and highlight the link between the cigarette butt they drop on the street or down the drain and the impact it has on the marine environment.
To support the campaign, Keep Britain Tidy has partnered with Sea Life Manchester to create a dramatic underwater seascape, which brings to life the impact of cigarettes in our oceans. Three one-metre 'cigarette butt' sculptures have been installed inside one of the tanks at Sea Life Manchester, creating a visual representation of what happens when cigarettes are littered in drains.
Allison Ogden-Newton, CEO of Keep Britain Tidy, said, "Following Sir David Attenborough's rallying cry to reduce plastic waste on Blue Planet 2, we wanted to show how simple everyday behaviour can affect the environment.
"While flicking a cigarette down the drain may not seem harmful, we need to ensure smokers understand that this has a direct and often drastic impact on wildlife.
"Our research showed that more than a fifth of Brits thought putting a cigarette down the drain was acceptable, which rose sharply to over half among smokers who smoke every day. We need to challenge this view, and get the message to smokers that this is still littering.
"It's encouraging to see that so many smokers were very concerned about the impact of their cigarette butts on marine life, and we hope that this research will further educate the public about the effects of smoking-related litter."
Jenn McDonough of Merlin Entertainments said, "When people drop their cigarette butt down the drain they probably believe they're doing their bit to keep waste off the street but this is unfortunately having an impact on our oceans. Bin The Butt is a really important campaign and one we're delighted to support at Sea Life Manchester. We take our commitment to improving the conditions of our oceans very seriously, staging regular canal and beach cleans as part of our marine conservation programme.
"The Bin The Butt installations we are introducing in partnership with Keep Britain Tidy will, we hope, further draw people's attention to the importance of stamping out cigarette litter nationwide."
The campaign launched in Manchester city centre on Wednesday 29th August, when representatives from Keep Britain Tidy and Manchester City Council highlighted the problem with an installation of 40 giant cigarette butts in St Peter's Square.