Spain has introduced new rules forcing tobacco companies to clean up cigarette butts.
The regulations follow attempts to reduce smoking in public areas by prohibiting smoking on 525 beaches across the country in 2021. They come as part of an EU initiative on waste and single-use plastic reduction and include bans on plastic cutlery and straws.
Like many countries, Spain has long tolerated the millions of cigarette ends discarded by smokers on the country’s streets and beaches. However the new environmental rulings, which came into play on Friday 6 January 2023, now place the responsibility for removing cigarette litter firmly at the tobacco companies’ doors.
Cigarette manufacturers will also have a duty to encourage smokers not to throw away their butts in public areas.
🇪🇸 Spain makes it mandatory that tobacco companies have to CLEAN cigarette butts from the streets and beaches. pic.twitter.com/RJ0R14oLJO— Conservative W’s (@ConsPostingWs) January 7, 2023
While some inventive clean up solutions such as AI and robots are being explored, it is not yet clear how the cleaning and disposal of the cigarette ends will be managed, nor exactly how much tobacco companies will have to spend to carry out their new obligations. ‘Zero waste society’ Rezero has estimated the cost to be between €12-€21 per citizen per year – which could add up to as much as €1 billion.
These increased costs will probably be passed onto the consumer through higher product prices, providing another weapon in the battle against tobacco addiction, as well as the fight against pollution.
Cigarettes are one of the most common types of litter. Billions of cigarette ends are thrown away in public places each year. As they decompose, which takes about a decade, they leak toxic pollutants such as lead and arsenic into the environment.
As well as being an eyesore and pollutant on the streets, cigarette butts are the most common factor in marine pollution according to non-profit organisation Ocean Conservancy, which ranks cigarettes above plastic bottles and bags. Around 5 billion cigarettes end up in seas and oceans each year. The hazardous chemicals released as they break down are lethal to aquatic life.
In sweeping changes aligned with EU targets on tackling plastic pollution, Spain’s new eco rules also prohibit a wide range of single-use plastics, such as cutlery and plates, cotton buds, expanded polystyrene cups and plastic straws, as the country seeks to reduce waste and increase recycling. France is taking similar steps in relation to waste produced by the fast-food industry.