Complaints regarding the number of discarded cigarette butts on Luxembourg's streets are on the rise, citing concerns over environment pollution.

Cigarette butts can take up to twelve years to degrade in nature, meaning their appearance on pavements is anything but temporary. "I'm tired of seeing people throwing cigarettes out of their window when they have ashtrays in their cars," complained one Luxembourgish Reddit user. "Please stop, it's already bad to leave trash in nature, but it's also bad for animals such as birds."

In 2019, the Ministry of the Environment announced that around 600 million cigarettes were smoked in Luxembourg, generating nearly 132 tonnes of cigarette butts. The number of daily smokers in the country stands at more than 120,000, perpetuating a habit which can not just prove costly for the planet, but also for the government.

"Every Monday morning there is a guy who cleans the cigarettes off the station platform, and each week I wonder how there are so many there. If people would just throw them where they needed to, his job would definitely be a lot easier," commented another Reddit user.

The government invests around €1.2 million annually to clean Luxembourg's roads. The sum accounts for "90% of personnel costs, 4.8% of collection and transport costs, and 5.2% elimination costs".

Is Luxembourg too lax?

The fines for discarding cigarettes on the ground have almost tripled in the last couple of years, rising from €49 to €145 in 2021. However, the sanctions appear ineffective, given the state of Luxembourg's streets.

In Namur, Belgium, local authorities have cracked down on smokers, raising fines to €350 for discarding cigarette butts incorrectly. In Portugal, offenders are made to pay fines of up to €2,000 for the same infraction, rendering Luxembourg's sanctions scant in comparison.


Limiting the damage

A number of solutions are available as alternatives to littering pavements with cigarette butts or polluting the world's oceans. Shime, a privately-owned Luxembourgish company, supports businesses in implementing environmental protection strategies. Partnering with MéGo, a cigarette butt recycling company based in Brittany, Shime offers companies based in Luxembourg, Belgium, and the French Moselle department opportunities to become "zero cigarette butt" organisations.

The organisation seeks to equip smoking areas with ashtrays, to raise awareness of the dangers of littering cigarette butts, and even collects the cigarette butts discarded by employees. In this manner, Shime and MéGo are helping to considerably reduce the amount of cigarette waste each day, collecting over 100,000 cigarette butts since the partnership began, and saving 1,000kg of CO2.