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Cigarette butts represent a large part of the waste found on the ground in the City of Geneva. They pollute our natural environment and are expensive to collect from the community. That is why the City wants to change the behavior of smokers by encouraging them to throw their cigarette butts in designated areas.

Municipal police officers sanction this offence and can fine it. Other actions are also in place to combat this pollution to our environment.

The impact of discarded butts into the streets is not yet fully known, but it is not negligible, as these bits of cigarettes are loaded with toxic substances and made of plastics. And it takes them at least 25 years to degrade.

Caught red-handed, an offender can be fined up to 100 francs!

Many people caught throwing their cigarette butts onto the public domain, admitted having a bad habit. "It's an offense, so we have to punish it in a preventive and repressive way," explains Alexandre, an officer with the Geneva municipal police.

Caught red-handed, the offender faces a fine of 100 francs, or a simple reminder to order with sometimes a distribution of pocket ashtrays. Last year, the municipal police issued nearly 300 fines.

Encourage spontaneous pickup

Other initiatives exist, such as that of the Association for the Safeguarding of Lake Geneva, which has created an App to encourage spontaneous waste collection. Since its launch, more than 32,000 cigarette butts have been recovered, as explained by Adrien Bonny, project manager for the association: "When a cigarette butt is thrown to the ground, it has a good chance of ending up in the sewer gates with water runoff. People think it goes to sewage treatment plants, but in fact, the butt ends up in the lake and pollutes its waters. And the water of the lake, we drink it!"

A cigarette contains some 4,000 substances, 250 of which are harmful to health and 50 are carcinogenic: many of these elements accumulate in the filter thrown to the ground. A single butt can pollute up to 500 litres of water.

#FillTheBottle - Fill the bottle!

On Twitter and Instagram, this impact on the environment has also mobilized many. At the end of July, a new challenge was launched with the hashtag #FillTheBottle.

The principle is simple: just fill a bottle of cigarette butts found in public, then post a photo of its collection on social networks. The idea was born thanks to a young girl named Amel.

Watch The Agence France-Presse's short report on the action #FillTheBottle:

Cigarette butt counters

To raise public awareness, the Roads Service has launched an anti cigarette butt action to raise awareness among users of the public domain to throw their cigarette butts in an ashtray.

Several actions have been taken in this direction: an innovative system for counting cigarette butts and other dirt has been put in place. Bicycles equipped with cameras travelled around the city to assess the amount of cigarette butts on the ground.

The figure was made public via "cigarette butt counters" placed in five high-traffic areas:

  • Place du Molard
  • Parc des Bastions
  • Cornavin train station
  • Place de la Navigation
  • Place Philibert-Berthelier (Bel-Air)

Thanks to this system, Geneva residents were able to observe the evolution of the phenomenon. A total of 20,758,024 cigarette butts were thrown to the ground between 24 September and 19 November 2018. During four weeks, nearly 8,000 pocket ashtrays were distributed to the population.