A system for cigarette waste needs to be agreed before the end of the year. | Efe

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Under new Spanish law for waste management, tobacco manufacturers will be obliged to address the issue of cigarette waste - cigarette ends, that is. The law, which has been approved by Congress, will come into effect in January 2023, and it includes a requirement for tobacco companies to assume a responsibility for the collection and disposal of cigarette ends.

In terms of waste, cigarette ends are among the most polluting. This is due to their durability and their composition; some contain microplastics that make them especially harmful to the environment. The law has been approved, and administrations are now considering how it should be applied to cigarette waste.

An option being looked at would be similar to that for the return of bottles. Consumers would be compensated for each cigarette end collected and returned. In Catalonia, the government is already working on such a scheme, and the Balearic government is also examining this. The bottom line would be a general increase in price.

Sebastià Sansó, the director-general for waste, believes that prices can be raised and that there can be a payback system. The Catalonia proposal is an increase per pack of cigarettes to four euros. For each cigarette end returned, the consumer would receive 20 cents. For 20 ends, therefore, the price of a pack would be recovered.

Sansó explains that this is one measure being analysed by which tobacco manufacturers would pay for the elimination of cigarette waste. Another is for companies to pay a charge to town halls to compensate them for the collection and disposal of cigarette ends.

Whatever system is adopted, a decision needs to be made before the legislation comes into force. Sansó says that the elimination of waste is a responsibility of regional governments, which in the case of the Balearics means the island councils, as responsibility has been transferred to them. He argues that regional initiatives should be taken into account when designing a model to ensure that the tobacco manufacturers pay. "The removal and elimination of cigarette butts is paid for by everyone except the producers. This cannot continue any longer."