The Danish Minister for Environment goes head to head with tobacco industry in new summer campaign

The Danish Minister for Environment, Lea Wermelin, launches a summer campaign to remind the Danes not to throw cigarette butts in nature. Cigarette filters are the most common type of litter in nature in numerical terms and they contain microplastics, toxic chemicals and heavy metals that can harm the environment. In the future, cigarette manufacturers will be responsible for cleaning up the butts. Part of the campaign is a big "cigarette butt installation" that helps make the problem visible.

Published 3. July 2020

Target groups:

One, two, three, many. Once you have noticed the small cigarette butts, they are everywhere on the streets and in nature.  Cigarette butts are the most common type of litter.  It is estimated that millions of butts are thrown in nature and cities every year. 

- Cigarette butts are plastic, and the type of litter that we find most often in our nature – everywhere. When they're thrown in nature, they turn into microplastics that do not disappear. Cigarette butts also contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals that can harm our environment. Cigarette butts therefore have no place in nature. They are litter and should go in the bin, and that's why we're launching a summer campaign for a cigarette butt-free Denmark, says Lea Wermelin. 

Let nature be nature – and not a bin
Cigarette filters contain the plastic material cellulose acetate, which slowly degrades into microplastics in nature. This means that the butts do not disappear, they end up as small pieces of plastic.

In order to draw attention to the problem with cigarette butts and the materials that butts are made of, the Minister for Environment is launching the summer campaign ”#skodfritdanmark” (cigarette butt-free Denmark). 

The campaign was launched on 1 July 2020 on Amager Beach, Copenhagen’s largest beach, where an installation with 30 large cigarette butts will remind the Danes during the summer that cigarette butts have no place in nature. The message will reach the many Danes who this year, due to Covid-19, will be enjoying Denmark's unique nature slightly more than they usually do when they spend their holiday on Danish beaches and in forests.  

The polluter must pay
In future, tobacco manufacturers must take greater responsibility for their products – also when the products become litter. A clean-up responsibility for tobacco products will be introduced across the European Union. The clean-up responsibility means that in future tobacco manufacturers must pay for cleaning up cigarette butts in nature, label the products that contain plastic and pay for information to consumers on the negative impacts of throwing cigarette butts in nature.

- Nature needs our help being nature – and not a bin. We're all responsible for not littering. However, the tobacco industry must also take action and responsibility for the many cigarette butts ending up as litter in nature. The tobacco industry must pay for cleaning up the butts – and it's only fair that the polluter pays, says the Minister for Environment. 

Facts about the campaign “A cigarette butt-free Denmark”

  • The campaign was launched on 1 July 2020 on Amager Beach in Copenhagen.
  • A total of 30 large wooden cigarette butts have been placed on Amager Beach to illustrate how big the problem of discarded cigarette butts is in Danish nature.
  • The large cigarette butt installation will be exhibited on Amager Beach throughout July. Afterwards, it will be made available to other beaches or nature areas in Denmark.  
  • During the summer, the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark will share facts on social media about cigarette butts in nature and share advice on how to prevent this.
  • The campaign will run under the name #skodfritdanmark 

Facts about cigarette butts

  • Cigarette butts account for the largest fraction of litter in Denmark in numerical terms. 
  • Cigarette filters contain the plastic material cellulose acetate. After 5-10 years, the butts degrades into microplastics, which means that they will not disappear. Cigarette butts thrown in nature can also release heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, tar compounds and nicotine. 
  • Preliminary analyses indicate that cigarette butts discarded in nature can easily end up in all types of marine environments and pose an environmental risk for the quality of water. Moreover, cigarette butts can release substances that affect marine organisms.

For more information:
Nina Maria Klok, press advisor at the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark, tel.: +45 24 96 81 57, email. nimkl@mfvm.dk