Hobsons Bay Council has been running a “Butt it, Bin it” campaign since 2014, due for completion in July 2017. The Source Reduction Plan aimed to continue to raise community awareness after it concluded, and to reduce cigarette litter through education and responsible disposal of butts via the dispersal of personal ashtrays. These personal ashtrays were upcycled mint tins with educational messaging attached.
Face to face surveys were conducted with smokers in 4 suburbs to measure community awareness on the issue and littering behaviour and attitudes towards it. On three occasions with a volunteer dressed in a cigarette butt suit. The methodology for the project was created by community volunteers, the Port Philip Bay Eco Centre, and Hobsons Bay City Council.
Some learnings included: due to the time of year (winter), it was often very cold and windy to conduct audits and surveys. Media was not harnessed as much as could have been, but two Save Sam the Seadragon presentations helped raise the issue of plastic harm to wildlife.
The results of the butt surveys were highly variable. In one Altona location there was a large improvement, this survey finding no butts compared to an average of 11 over the previous years surveys. This contrasted highly with the rest of this area, which showed a 33% increase in litter, however the results from Coles more than doubled that average, skewing the results. The other Altona location showed no increase or decrease in the amount of litter, although the areas of litter shifted.
In Williamstown, on the northern end of Parker St, cigarette litter decreased by 15% over all, while the southern end of Parker St showed a 52% increase. This increase is seemingly due to a large number of cafes, bars and restaurants, patrons will gather in certain locations to smoke. A large volume of butts were gathered from gutters and drains.
The project to produce and distribute the mint tin personal ashtrays is ongoing, with a permanent collection point provided at the Altona EnviroCentre. The outcomes of the smoker surveys have been given to interested community groups for future initiatives targeting the issue.