Smoke Free Beaches - A Success Story in Byron Bay!

Over the past year, Zoe White, our Byron Bay Co-ordinator, has worked with Kate Akkerman from Byron Shire Council and NSW EPA to conduct a range of trials and strategies in attempt to reduce cigarette butt litter across the Byron Shire. This included a two-month cigarette butt litter research project which trialled a range of strategies to target the issue. This effort was part of many trials across 20 different sites in NSW. In Byron we completed all four of the possible strategies - Pathways, Pride & Ownership, Enforcement & Positive Social Norming.

 Our Byron Bay Coordinator Zoe White (left) with Kate Akkerman of Byron Shire Council (right) leading our joint Smoke Free Beaches / Butt Free Byron Shire campaign in Byron Bay.

Our Byron Bay Coordinator Zoe White (left) with Kate Akkerman of Byron Shire Council (right) leading our joint Smoke Free Beaches / Butt Free Byron Shire campaign in Byron Bay.

This trial involved completing a range of surveys and observations across different sites, focusing on how people were disposing of their cigarette butts and whether particular strategies were helping to increase the percentage of people binning their butts. After 2 months of people watching and biting our tongues as people would fragrantly fling their cigarettes onto our pristine beaches, we were pleased to discover that all study sites and strategies revealed a reduction in butt littering. Results revealed that the most successful strategies for us, and in fact all NSW sites, was “Pride & Ownership”. This involved ensuring smoking sites were welcoming and well maintained to encourage smokers to be more likely to look after the area and bin their butts!!

 Cigarette butt litter has made up over 80% of our litter survey findings on Main Beach in Byron Bay over the past 6 years.

Cigarette butt litter has made up over 80% of our litter survey findings on Main Beach in Byron Bay over the past 6 years.

On completion of this project Kate and Zoe have continued to work together to continue to tackle the problem through the Butt Free Byron Shire campaign (have you seen the signs and new bins around your town in the Byron Shire?!). Zoe is currently monitoring the campaigns progress by completing Local Litter Checks (LLCs) across Byron. This is a strategy created by NSW EPA that is used to assess what type of litter is being found, and whether any new strategies are helping to decrease the amount of litter found in these areas. These litter checks found that that the smoking category currently accounts for a whopping 77% of litter composition across the shire (which is in line with our findings on Main Beach over the past 6 years of surveys).

 Our Byron Bay Coordinator Zoe during a film shoot shows just how many butts we collect in only a month of surveys at Main Beach!

Our Byron Bay Coordinator Zoe during a film shoot shows just how many butts we collect in only a month of surveys at Main Beach!

 Zoe collecting cigarette butts for our joint local litter checks near The Pass in Byron Bay.

Zoe collecting cigarette butts for our joint local litter checks near The Pass in Byron Bay.

Lucky for us (if you haven’t already heard the great news), the result of all of this hard work has been a SUCCESS! Byron Shire Council voted to ban smoking on local beaches and rangers are now issuing fines of up to $200 to anyone caught smoking in these areas! Alongside this, there’s been a 29% decrease in the number of littered smoking items found since the launch of our ‘Smoke Free Beaches’ and ‘Butt Free Byron Shire’ campaign! This is extremely exciting news for our Smoke Free team - well done everyone!

Keep an eye out for a NSW EPA short film that includes an interview with Kate and Zoe. This film aims to encourage more councils to complete the strategy and highlight why It’s important to reduce cigarette butt litter in local communities.

And remember, BIN YOUR BUTTS and help us take butt litter across the Shire from ~80% of litter found to 0%!