Sunday, 28 June 2015

Butts in our Sand

Since our World Oceans Day celebration on June 6th, we have focused on keeping a log of all our beach clean ups. You might have seen our fairly regular Facebook updates highlighting how much we found during each clean up. So far, the level of plastic found has been fairly consistent, averaging around the 40% - 45% mark.

Of course, plastic has been in our sights recently due to the sheer volume of it, the constant concerns over plastic in the food chain and its ability to clog up the guts of many marine species. However, this is not why I write this post. Since we started collecting data, it has become painfully clear that the most common (and probably smallest) items we find are cigarette butts. In total, we have collected 2,440 butts over 7 beach clean ups. Of those, 569 were collected from the beach in the village, a 281m long beach that we have cleaned 4 times since 6th June. Teluk Keke, a popular snorkel tour stop and campsite was second with 404 butts collected in one morning, whilst Long Beach saw 1,233 butts collected in a 2 hour clean up.

A remarkable amount of cigarettes, but not a surprising amount, especially in beach areas. Sand makes a particularly good ash tray and quick for discarding cigarettes when finished. However, whilst people probably realise and understand the risks of smoking to themselves (And perhaps others around them), many will not realise the dangers of cigarettes can have on the environment.

This is not a new report, but the importance of it has been highlighted to us through the very high number of butts found on the islands. A study, conducted by Slaughter et al (2011) found that a cigarette butt in 1 litre of water leached enough toxins to kill fish living in that water. Of course, it could be argued that the amount of water in the sea is so huge that the amount of cigarettes required to make a difference is infinite, however, considering we collected 2,440 in about 10 hours, and the World Lung Foundation estimated 43 trillion cigarettes were smoked between 2002 and 2012, there is an almighty amount of water that could be damaged, even from cities, where rainwater and drainage run off can reach the seas.

It is difficult, and scary, to consider that one cigarette butt, improperly disposed of, could kill a fish. Remember, if you smoke; Stash it. Don’t Trash it.