Brussels cracks down on cigarette butt littering!

Mégot jeté dans un cendrier urbain à Bruxelles.

In celebration of the 2nd edition of the 'Week against Discarded Cigarette Butts' from October 9 to 15, 2023, the City of Brussels is intensifying its efforts to raise awareness about cigarette butt littering. Notably, this initiative now extends to include waste from single-use electronic cigarettes. The week's program includes the distribution of pocket ashtrays, community events, and awareness campaigns on the streets and among local shopkeepers, as well as the installation of urban ashtrays.

The City of Brussels has rolled out an extensive plan to combat cigarette butt littering in its streets. This plan encompasses awareness-raising activities, the installation of urban ashtrays, a revision of penalties for littering offenses, and the establishment of a partnership for recycling collected cigarette butts.

An alarming 30 percent of litter in Brussels streets consists of discarded cigarette butts, necessitating daily cleanup efforts by the city's Cleaning Service. Due to their diminutive size and tendency to become wedged between paving stones, cigarette butts present unique challenges for street cleaners.

Moreover, cigarette butts not only tarnish the visual appeal of public spaces but also pose a grave environmental threat. While it takes mere seconds to discard a cigarette butt on the ground, these butts can take between 10 to 15 years to decompose. During this time, their composition of over 4,000 chemical components can inflict substantial damage on the environment, particularly when they find their way into the sewer system, potentially reaching the sea, where a single cigarette butt can pollute up to 500 liters of water.

The initial phase of the City's plan focused on raising awareness through poster campaigns, distribution of flyers, and direct engagement with the public, including the distribution of pocket ashtrays. Furthermore, a network of public ashtrays has been strategically placed, accompanied by highly visible signs on existing trash cans equipped with ashtrays and extinguishing systems.

For individuals who persist in littering despite these measures, the City is prepared to increase fines as a deterrent.

In addition to these efforts, the City has entered into a partnership with the Belgian start-up We Circular to recycle collected cigarette butts. The retrieved plastic serves as raw material for 3D printers, which produce pocket ashtrays. WeCircular is responsible for emptying public ashtrays in Laeken (40) and collecting cigarette butts gathered by street sweepers in the city center.

In 2023, these initiatives resulted in the collection of: 1,320 liters of waste, approximately 528,000 recycled cigarette butts and 264,000 m³ of unpolluted water, equivalent to around 70 Olympic-sized swimming pools.


This initiative is part of measure 20 of the regional urban cleanliness strategy, which states that " Informing the public about the toxic composition of cigarette butts and their harmful impact on the environment, water, plants and animals.  Also providing information about the fines for discarding cigarette butts on the ground.”

More info on the website of the City of Brussels, here.