A South East Queensland region-wide campaign to reduce the large number of cigarette butts entering our waterways every year (estimated at 7 billion nationally) is being coordinated by Healthy Waterways this summer.

The Butt Litter Campaign was launched on the 14th of December 2005 in Brisbane and other locations in South East Queensland from Noosa to the Gold Coast and Ipswich.

Butt Littering problem in Australia

While Cigarette Butts are small, they become a large problem when many of them are littered onto our streets and into our waterways.

  • Approximately 7 billion butts are littered across Australia each year
  • Butts make up 50% of littered items
  • Butts can take more than 5 years to breakdown in water (with some studies reporting up to 15years)
  • The bottom line – butts cost us in many ways


Cigarette butts and other forms of litter kill and injure fish, birds and other animals.

Aquatic animals – such as fish, whales and birds can mistake cigarette butts for food in the water leading to their poisoning (with hazardous chemicals and digestive blockages causing illness and death.

Cigarettes contain chemicals such as Benzene (a petrol additive), Formaldehyde (embalming fluid), Ammonia (a toilet cleaner), Acetone (nail polish remover), Tar, Nicotine (an insecticide and addictive drug), Arsenic (rat poison) and a range of other chemicals (over 4,000) that are harmful to the environment.
Many of these chemicals are trapped and concentrated in cigarette butts. These chemicals leach into the environment when the butts breakdown contaminating our water, land and animals.


Millions of dollars are spent each year to clean up cigarette butts or stop them from being littered. The costs include the placement and servicing of bins, placement of pollution control devices, cleaning operations (such as street sweeping) and the costs of educating people about the problem.


Cigarette butt litter is unsightly making our favourite parks and waterways less enjoyable. Littered streets make people less likely to go to tourist locations and make our homes and business areas less appealing.