Plastic Butts

Someone looking surprised whilst holding up a newspaper which details a story about the amount of plastic found in cigarette butts.
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Plastic Butts

Do you know what’s in your butt?

Cigarette butts are made from plastic. Surprised to hear that? Turns out you’re not alone – only 1 in 4 people currently know this, according to new polling of over 3,000 smokers and non-smokers by Censuswide. 1 in 3 smokers mistakenly think cigarettes butts and filters (we’re talking straights and rollies) are made from cotton wool when in fact they’re made from a type of plastic called cellulose acetate.

Check out #PlasticButts in action

A flickin’ decent sized problem

  1. They're everywhere!

    Cigarette butts are the most common form of litter in the world and are so common they’ve become invisible – many of us have stopped even noticing them. We naturally tend to focus on solving problems that are highly visible. Plastic bottles and bags – yep, we need to cut down on those. Coffee cups – hmm, we should do something about those too. Cigarette butts? Meh. Out of sight, out of mind. Right?..Unfortunately not.

  2. They never fully break down.

    Those that don’t end up just about everywhere else and leach harmful chemicals into the environment and take up to a decade to break down into microplastics, where they are less visible but still harmful.

Time for the good news!

Hubbub polling found that 57% of smokers would be more likely to look for an ashtray nearby if they knew their butts and filters were made from plastic and 50% would hold on to their cigarettes for longer. Hooray!

Breaking news: plastic on the streets of London

We broke this news on the streets surrounding Stratford Station - the busiest train station in the UK - with eye-catching interventions to help cigarette litter be “seen”. Billboards, newspaper stands, a seaside picture board, “talking butts” and a one-off giant version of our iconic Ballot Bin will raise awareness of the plastic content of cigarette butts and catch the attention of passers-by.

Psst… tell a friend

The aim of this campaign was to raise awareness of the widely unknown fact that cigarette butts are made from plastic. We believe that if people are aware of the facts, solutions to the problem of cigarette litter will emerge. It so happens that we already invented a pretty nifty solution: the Ballot Bin. We launched our customisable voting ashtray back in 2016 and it’s proven to reduce litter by up to 73%.

Really though, to tackle the problem of cigarette litter, we need at least three things. Firstly, more cigarette bins in key hotspots: 55% and 51% of smokers respectively say there should be more ashtrays at bus stops and at taxi ranks/outside supermarkets. Secondly, littering cigarette butts needs to become socially unacceptable – just like dropping a plastic bottle in the street is. We hope that more smokers and non-smokers alike knowing about #PlasticButts will spur a change in social attitude. And thirdly, more smokers need to bin their butts or take them home with them, because – as widespread as our Ballot Bins may be – there won’t always be an ashtray available.

The difference #PlasticButts made

The aim of this campaign was awareness and reach:

  • Media engagement: 14 pieces of coverage with opportunities to hear and see of over 21 million.
  • Social media reach: over 250,000 across all Hubbub channels (not including amplifiers).
  • On-the-ground reach: 340,000-400,000 people.
  • On-site polling: there was an increase from 25% to 75% in the number of passers-by who knew cigarette butts were made from plastic.

Looking for an alternative to plastic butts?

Are you one of the 34% of people more likely to quit smoking after finding out your butt is made from plastic? Congratulations, you’re not alone and there’s plenty of support to help you quit.There's recently been an explosion in the popularity of disposable vapes. Cheap, colourful, widely available, and highly addictive, it’s no wonder they’re proving a hit. However, recent research has found that two disposable vapes are thrown away every second in the UK!

Most of these are made from plastic and are powered by batteries containing valuable rare metals which should be getting recycled (spoiler alert: most aren’t). To anyone learning that cigarette butts are made from plastic and seeking a nicotine hit elsewhere – please make sure to recycle your disposable vapes with your small electrical items.

What can you do?

  • Bin your #PlasticButts! And tell your friends to as well.
  • Ask your local pub to get an ashtray if they don’t already have one. Our customisable Ballot Bin voting ashtray is a great option.
  • Spread the news on social media with the hashtag #PlasticButts. You can share this fun graphic on your own channels.

What if we told you cigarette butts aren't the only hidden plastic?

Plastic has sneaked its way into near enough every aspect of our lives, and there are some less obvious hidden plastics lurking around our homes. Check out what they are and make simple switches to route them out.

See Hubbub in action

From Community Fridges that cut food waste to Ballot Bins that halve cigarette litter, our campaigns show what taking action that's good for the environment looks like in practice.