Litterbugs

Reporter: Mark Gibson

7 billion butts - like this one - thrown on the ground in the Murray Street Mall. Spend a couple of hours here and you'll find litterbug...After litterbug..After litterbug. Mel Hay is a tough talking former Assistant Police Commissioner.. these days, he chairs the Keep Australia Beautiful Council. "Research we've done has indicated that 6 out of 10 smokers just discard their butts." And most of them couldn't care less."There's a street sweeper that comes past and just drives up the street and collects all cigarette butts at night so this isn't a place that's not really gonna be where the cigarette's going to be sleeping tonight my friend."

Mel Hay says "It needs to be policed more vigorously and the penalties need to be more severe." Police and council rangers have the power to issue fines.. in WA, 4000 people have had to cough up 75 bucks in the past 12 months. For all other litter the fine is two hundred dollars. "A cigarette butt on the ground is much worse than a paper bag on the ground so if you're going to be fined $200 for the paper bag, well why should you be fined $75 for a cigarette butt."

One way to reduce littering - ban smoking.. that's now happened in outdoor dining areas in the CBD, Northbridge, Fremantle, Mt Lawley and Leederville. "Generally the cleanliness of the area's a lot better, we don't find butts everywhere, especially around places where they serve food." Town of Vincent Mayor, Nick Catania says it's good for business. "Everyone that smoked previously that they've lost have been replaced by by 10 others that really appreciate a no smoking zone."

These ladies reckon smokers get a raw deal. "They really need ashtrays though because people are smoking. -You don't think there's enough facilities to put the butts in the bin? -No, definitely not." But there's really no excuse.. the Keep Australia Beautiful Council provides these "pocket ashtrays." Mel Hay says "You just click it over like that and you put that in your pocket -Take it home. -Take it home and then you just empty that out in your bin at home."

So bad, that each cigarette butt releases thousands of toxic chemicals."They contain cadmium, they contain arsenic, zinc, a whole range of chemicals." After a bit of persuasion, some people did do the right thing.Aussie smokers - you've been warned. Mel Hay says "Think about it, use a bit of common sense and next time you finish a cigarette don't just discard it, get a pocket ashtray or put in the bin."

To obtain a pocket ashtray or if you want more details contact Keep Australia Beautiful WA: www.kabc.wa.gov.au or give them a call on 6467 5122.