£330 up in smoke: Dropping cigarette butt proves costly for Oldham woman as town crack down on littering

By Lucy Kenderdine

Smoking’s health costs are widely known – but the price of dropping a cigarette butt may not be as commonly recognised.

Dropping a cigarette butt in Oldham town centre cost one woman £330 this week.

Lynette Shaw, from Sholver, failed to pay the £80 Fixed Penalty Notice that she received on June 15 after an Environmental Health Enforcement Officer observed her dropping a cigarette butt.

When she failed to pay, Oldham Council started legal proceedings against the 35-year-old and on November 22 she was fined the £80 alongside an additional £250 in costs.

Councillor Jean Stretton, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Devolved Services, said: “Everyone should clean up after themselves, if they don’t then they should be prepared to face the consequences.”

The fine would have been reduced to £50 if it had been paid within 10 days but instead the Bunyan Close resident was found guilty at Oldham Magistrates’ Court.

Ms Shaw did not attend court but was fined in her absence and forced to pay an additional £15 victim surcharge.

Councillor Stretton added: “Littering is a blight on the Borough and removing rubbish from our streets costs money that could be better used elsewhere.”

Oldham is not the only area to report problems with cigarette butts as Manchester and other areas of the UK also suffer from the same problem.

According to the charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), an estimated 200million butts are dropped every day, amounting to 122 tonnes of rubbish.

Cigarette butts account for over 70% of all litter in urban areas and, due to the material they are made of, it can take between 18 months and 12 years for a butt to fully decompose.

An ASH spokesman said: “Action to tackle litter should be backed by community information and education campaigns.

“It is important that smokers realise that not disposing of cigarette related litter properly is unacceptable, that cigarettes that are not properly extinguished can cause fires and that smokers dropping cigarette litter in the street will be fined.”

However it is not just cigarette butts that are causing problems in the region, all forms of litter are costing councils in Greater Manchester huge sums of money.

Last year the cost of cleaning Manchester City Centre of litter (excluding graffiti) was £1.9million including employee costs and vehicle hire.

Across the region a debate has raged between those councils who want to teach people about the problems littering can cause and others who want to punish the offenders harshly.

Bolton Council, while still handing out on the spot Fixed Penalty Notices, focuses a lot of attention on education with the Love Bolton, Hate Litter Campaign.

The nationally acclaimed campaign aimed to make the town a cleaner and greener place and ensured that everyone could participate.

Local groups can help out by organising litter picks whilst the council provides equipment to schools and other community organisations whilst educating them to make a difference.

Keep Britain Tidy, an environmental charity campaign, has also been urging the public to be responsible with their litter and realise the problems that it can cause.

Chief executive Phil Barton said: “Local authorities are facing difficult choices when it comes to increasingly scarce resources.”

Picture courtesy of 0Four, with thanks.

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