Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir wants the tobacco producers to pay for the litter costs of cigarette butts. The N-VA minister wants the tobacco industry to take on part of the total litter cost – 25.5 million euros out of a total of more than 150 million euros. Demir has prepared a draft decree for this that has been approved for the first time by the Flemish government.

    A study by the waste company OVAM shows that cigarette butts account for 41 percent of the number of pieces of litter collected. According to Minister Demir, the butts are also a “great annoyance of the Flemish people”. “Every 12 minutes a butt ends up on the ground of a bus station, but also in our nature or in front of your door. The consequences of this are major since they are very difficult to break down and contain microplastics,” explains the minister.

    According to her, it is therefore “high time” for manufacturers to pay for the clean-up costs. “The polluter pays, but the manufacturer shares responsibility”, says Demir.

    Cost of more than 150 million

    The annual cost of cleaning up litter in Flanders is more than 150 million euros. “We urgently need to shift up a gear and no longer avoid taboos. The decision about deposits is one thing, but we will also let the tobacco manufacturers pay for that high cost and for keeping our streets and nature clean,” says Demir.

    The N-VA minister therefore expects a financial contribution from the sector. Manufacturers can organize themselves collectively or they can choose to fulfill their obligations individually. The aim is to make the tobacco industry responsible for almost 25.5 million euros of the total cost of litter.

    Not with taxpayers

    According to Minister Demir, other producers of litter-sensitive products will also be held responsible for the clean-up costs of the litter that now end up with the taxpayer. Think of food packaging, chewing gum, wet wipes or balloons. “Wet wipes and balloons may not be as common as butts, but as a result of the European ‘single use plastics’ directive, aimed at single-use plastics, these manufacturers also have to do their bit,” says Demir.

    The proposal was approved by the government at the end of December and is now being submitted for advice to the Social and Economic Council of Flanders (SERV) and the Environment and Nature Council of Flanders (MINA Council).