STAFF at Maitland City Council are offering an incentive in the form of portable ashtrays to stop people littering the streets.
Residents are being handed the pocket-size flip-top ashtrays for free with the council taking an educational stance on the issue.
Manager of development and environment David Simm said cigarette butts and packets were major litter items in the Maitland local government area.
‘‘The fines exist and always have done. We are trying to take a more educational stance,’’ Mr Simm said.
‘‘We do issue on-the-spot fines when needed but we’d rather educate people not to break the law.’’
Mr Simm said ashtrays had been handed out in the past and the streets did appear to contain fewer cigarette butts.
Maitland City Council’s stance on cigarette butts has come on the back of a crackdown by Port Stephens Council last month.
Port Stephens Council rangers were instructed to take a zero tolerance approach and enforce fines of between $60 and $750 for careless smokers to maintain the area’s town centres.
Discarding a stubbed-out smoke is a $60 offence while a lit cigarette draws a $200 penalty under the laws.
Any cigarette that landed in a gutter – and possibly waterways – could cost up to $750 as it qualifies as pollution.
Keep Australia Beautiful national executive officer Peter McLean said figures showed cigarettes were the nation’s most common litter item, with about 28 found per square kilometre.
As well as cigarette butts being unsightly, Mr Simm said they contained hazardous chemicals that could harm the environment and were fire hazards in hot weather.
INCENTIVE: Maitland City Council Environmental Health Officer Fiona Rowan with some of the free personal ashtrays being offered. Picture: Simone De Peak