West Australians are being warned of the dangers of littering cigarette butts this bushfire season.
Keep Australia Beautiful and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) issued the warning as the Bureau of Meteorology predicted a warmer than usual summer season across most of the country, with vast areas of the State expected to face an above average fire risk.
Keep Australia Beautiful Chief Executive Officer Peter McLean said it was no secret cigarette butts are public enemy number one when it comes to littering.
“More than seven billion butts are discarded in Australia each year. If placed end to end they would extend 144,000 kilometres and circle the planet 3.6 times,” Mr McLean said.
“Nationally, thousands of fires a year are caused by cigarettes and smokers’ materials.
“Cigarette butts account for the most amount of rubbish found along our state’s highways.
“Not only are drivers who flick their cigarette butts out the window polluting the environment, they’re also potentially causing dangerous bushfires. You may have a licence to drive, but you don’t have a licence to litter.’’
DFES Operations Deputy Commissioner Lloyd Bailey said DFES attends over 500 mulch fires a year, the majority starting from discarded cigarette butts.
“Cigarette butts can cause ground fuels to smoulder for lengthy periods of time and all it takes is a hot and windy day for a bushfire to be sparked,” Deputy Commissioner Bailey said.
“Under the right weather conditions a bushfire can quickly escalate, putting lives and property under threat and placing an enormous burden on emergency services.
“I urge everyone to take responsibility for their actions and help to prevent bushfires this summer by carefully disposing of cigarette butts.”
The Keep Australia Beautiful National Litter Index 2013/14 recently revealed the number of cigarette butts found in Western Australia is 19 butts per 1,000m².
“I’ve had a lit cigarette hit me in the face that was flicked out of a car window before; people are just not getting the message,” Mr McLean said.
Careless disposal of a cigarette butt can be very costly, attracting a fine of up to $500 for an individual.
During a Total Fire Ban any person who disposes of burning tobacco, or a burning cigarette, cigar or match in circumstances that is likely to set fire to the bush, including throwing it from a vehicle, could face a fine of $25,000 and/or 12 months in jail.
The public can report someone carelessly disposing of a cigarette to Keep Australia Beautiful WA (KAB).
To become a registered Litter Reporter visit the Keep Australia Beautiful WA website at www.kabc.wa.gov.au and complete the online registration form.