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9 billion cigarette butts have now been dropped on the ground in the uk this year


Mind your butts - trashing your body and trashing the world

  • Cigarette butts are the most littered item on earth

  • Globally 4.5 trillion filters are dropped on to the ground

  • London alone spends £3.8 million a year cleaning them up

  • Cigarette filters take up to 12 years to decompose

  • Release toxic chemicals which affect the environment and wildlife

  • Cigarette filters offer no health benefits

London, UK, 31st July, 2019

Today Bodil Fosgaard, a Danish artist, has created a simple yet powerful piece of art outside King’s Cross Station to raise awareness that nine billion cigarette butts [1] have now been littered in the UK this year. To illustrate this alarming milestone, Bodil has collected thousands of cigarette butts from London’s streets to spell out the statistic before hundreds of commuters who were enjoying an early morning nicotine hit.  

Even though 86% of people in the UK know that dropping a cigarette butt is an illegal act of littering, it is still a daily sight around the country, with approximately 3.9 million cigarette butts [1] being dropped daily in the UK. As of today, nine billion cigarette butts have been carelessly discarded in the UK this year, and on an annual global level 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are dropped on to the ground [2], which is around 140,000 butts per second.


Image library of the artist creating her artwork at Boxpark, Shoreditch.

Download instructions: click the large image to open a full resolution image in a new window and save to your destination of choice.

Cigarette butts are the no. 1 most littered item on the planet [3].

Bodil Fosgaard’s installation is part of the ‘Quit Cigarettes’ campaign from Change Incorporated, an editorially-independent, purpose-driven online channel from VICE that will work with global businesses to tackle some of society’s biggest issues. This first mission is funded by Philip Morris International.

Street artist Bodil Fosgaard comments:

"Once you start seeing cigarette butts on the floor, you see them everywhere. 

The purpose of this art project is to create awareness of the fact that cigarette butts are the most littered product in the world and the pollution they create.

A lot of people don’t know that cigarette butts are a plastic product so therefore, it was important for me to pick up the trash and do something productive with it to make people think before they flick.”

Approximately 7.2 million people in the UK still smoke cigarettes and with the growing importance of maintaining your health and wellbeing the health implications are widely known. But the cigarette filter littering problem is one that has largely been ignored. While there is an economic impact of cigarette butts being discarded, £3.8 million is spent cleaning them up every year in London alone [4], the environmental consequences are far more wide-ranging.

Over a third of people in the UK don’t believe or don’t know that cigarette butts are a form of plastic pollution2. Cigarette butts are made of cellulose acetate [5] – a type of plastic – and they can take up to 12 years to biodegrade. Given that approximately 4 trillion cigarette butts end up in the environment [6], there could be soon 48 trillion discarded butts lying around our planet.

Many cigarette filters end up in water flows causing environmental damage, as the toxic chemicals from the cigarette – including over 7,000 chemical constituents [7] with poisons like Arsenic, Ammonia, Toluene and Methanol that smokers inhale with every puff – are released in drinking water and ultimately kill marine wildlife. One littered cigarette filter pollutes around 500 liters of water throughout its journey [8].

The sheer volume of cigarette butts that are littered in the environment means that they are highly likely to be a feature of any visit to a beach this summer. In 2009 in the UK, an average of 14 butts were found per 100 metres on 500 UK beaches according to the Marine Conservation Society [9]. By 2018 the figures had jumped to 36 per 100 metres – a 159% increase in UK beach pollution.

The common misconception behind the issue is that cigarette filters provide no health benefits. The Change Incorporated survey2 shows that over half of UK smokers believe that the filter on cigarettes makes smoking them less harmful but they are mistaken. A cigarette filter simply changes the experience of smoking, but does not lessen the harm each cigarette does to the smoker [10]. The best option is to Quit Cigarettes – cigarette smoking is the largest preventable cause of premature death in the world [11].

[1] Source:  7.2m smokers x (8.4 average cigarettes per day  x 65% average dropped ) x 235 days = 9.24 bn

[2] Source: Truth Initiative  (

[3] Source: ONS

[4] Source: City Of London

[5] Source: Ash Scotland

[6] Source: New Scientist

[7] Source: (here)

[8] Source: Zero Waste France (

[9] Source: Marine Conservation Society (

[10] Source: NCBI (

[11] Source: NHS Digital (

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Change Incorporated Press Office
Russell Minahan or Liv Thomas  
Tel: +44 (0) 7557 438576

About Change Incorporated

Change Incorporated is a new editorially independent channel from global media brand VICE that aims to create measurable change on issues important to VICE’s global audience. The purpose-driven channel will have editorial control and independence and will take funding from a small number of businesses to undertake different ‘missions’. The funding is primarily to support the best journalism and most compelling content on the Internet.

About Quit Cigarettes mission

Quit Cigarettes mission will initially launch in the UK and will have one single measure of success; the number of people that seriously attempt to stop smoking cigarettes, which will be audited by an independent third party. The funder for the mission is Philip Morris International and all activity will be consistent with the UK Government’s Tobacco Control Plan. Quit Cigarettes is an initiative created by Change Incorporated (VICE) and funded by Philip Morris International. VICE maintains editorial control, so Philip Morris International may not share the views expressed.

About VICE Media

VICE is a global media brand. Launched in 1994, VICE now operates in nearly 40 territories worldwide across mobile, digital, and linear platforms. VICE operates an expanding international network of digital channels; a television and feature film production studio; an Emmy-winning international television network, VICELAND; an Emmy-winning weekly news magazine show on HBO; an Emmy-winning nightly news series on HBO; Virtue, a global, full-service creative agency with 26 offices around the world; a magazine; and a record label.

VICE's award-winning programming has been recognized by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Peabody Awards, Sundance Film Festival, PEN Center, Cannes Lions, Frontline Club, Knight Foundation, American Society of Magazine Editors, LA Press Club, James Beard awards and Webby Awards, among others.