03 September 2023, by Emily Proctor
The Netherlands is one of several countries in the European Union (EU) considering a possible ban on cigarette filters as a way to stop littering. The discussions come as environmentalists call for the police to impose greater fines on people who leave cigarette butts in public spaces, rather than throwing them away.
The Netherlands and other EU countries consider ban on cigarette filters
The Dutch government is currently considering banning cigarette filters as a way to stop cigarette butts being littered so frequently across the country. According to the World Health Organisation, cigarette butts are the second most commonly discarded item on European beaches, while the UN has published figures showing that cigarette litter is the most common litter worldwide.
To tackle this, several EU countries are proposing different strategies. The Netherlands, as well as Belgium and Denmark, have all expressed their interest in national or EU-wide bans on cigarette butts. By contrast, a number of Dutch environmental groups want the police to increase fines for littering cigarettes to more than the current 150 euros per offence. According to the AD, Belgian anti-littering campaigners are currently asking for fines of 350 euros for dropping cigarette butts on the beach or in the street.
Another proposal by some groups is to prohibit smoking on beaches altogether. Trimbos Institute researcher Ester Croes told the newspaper that countries such as Spain and Italy are ahead in this regard, having already implemented a number of smoke-free beaches.
Millions of cigarette butts lying in Dutch nature spots
According to AD, 4,5 billion cigarette butts end up being discarded in the environment annually, 7 million of which are dumped in Dutch nature spots, such as on beaches or in the sea. Contained within cigarettes are not just chemicals that are known to cause harm to humans, but also compounds that cannot be broken down in the environment, such as plastic as well as nicotine, arsenic and lead that can cause harm to animals.
“Throwing a butt on the street is still socially acceptable after decades,” Emma Samson of Searious Business, an organisation focusing on preventing plastic from entering the ocean, told the AD. “We see it in movies, on television, with our parents and friends. It is deeply rooted in the behaviour of millions of smokers.”