Byron Bay tourists could be hit with $200 fine for smoking on the beach, to reduce cigarette butt litter
A haul of cigarette butts collected on Byron Bay’s Main Beach. (Supplied: Positive Change for Marine Life)
Visitors to Byron Bay could be fined up to $200 for lighting up on the beach in a bid to cut down on cigarette butt litter.
The Byron Shire Council, in northern New South Wales, conducted an audit of litter across the region in 2017 and discovered more than 80 per cent of discarded items were cigarette butts.
In response, the council voted to ban smoking on local beaches and will use its rangers to issue fines of up to $200 to anyone caught lighting up.
The council also launched a campaign called ‘Butt Free Byron Shire’ using a grant from the NSW Environment Protection Authority.
Byron Shire Council waste education and compliance officer Kate Akkerman says cigarette butt litter is a massive problem. (Supplied: Byron Shire Council)
Council’s waste education and compliance officer Kate Akkerman said there had been a 28 per cent reduction in cigarette litter since the campaign began in April.
“Seven billion cigarette butts are thrown away annually in Australia — it’s a massive problem,” she said.
“The decline has been completely consistent and we’re hoping smoking-related litter in the Byron Shire will continue to decline but over summer is when we’ll need to bump up enforcement and education.”
Ms Akkerman said the shire’s 2 million annual visitors, including a large percentage of international tourists, would put the campaign to the test.
“Our aim is to get a 40 per cent reduction by next year, but it’s the visitors who come through who make it a bit tricky,” she said.
“The reduction has occurred during the quiet period, but the message can get lost when people are only here for a day or a month.
“We’re trying to let people, who are only here for a short time, know that they can’t drop their butts.”
Butts to be recycled
Ms Akkerman said the campaign also included the installation of more than 100 ‘enviropoles’ across the shire for cigarette disposal.
More than 100 cigarette disposal poles have been installed throughout the Byron Shire so that butts can be recycled. (Supplied: Byron Shire Council)
The poles are commonly attached to bins and include a liquid medium inside that helps to extinguish cigarettes.
When the poles are full, the contents are collected and parts sent to the US for recycling.
“The fact they can be recycled is the coolest part,” Ms Akkerman said.
“The old tobacco and paper is composted, but there is plastic in the cigarette butt, so they remove the plastic and it is transformed into things like furniture and other plastic products.”
She said the council’s long-term goal was to recycle the butts locally.
“Enviropole is a Victorian company that services them, they collect them from the Byron tip and take them to America to be recycled,” she said.
“Recycling them in Australia is going to take a bit of time, but it would be wonderful if we could do it here in the Byron Shire.”