How do you keep your event cigarette-butt-free & ensure smokers dispose of their debris safely?


Smoking may be on the decline, but any event will still have attendees who want to smoke. How can you make sure smokers are properly managed – disposing of their debris safely and keeping to designated areas?

In the seventies, half of all adults in the UK smoked and, until the ban in 2007, it was common for many events to take place in the fog of smoke with ashtrays on every table. 

While, the Government has pledged to ensure we all kick the habit by 2030, in the meantime 15% of people still smoke. Banned by law from puffing on cigarettes indoors, smokers at events now head outside during any break. 

However, without proper provision for smokers to dispose of their smoking debris safely, this can lead to discarded cigarette butts just outside doorways at indoor events – and on the ground everywhere when the whole event is outdoors. 


Smokers will also cluster together at exits, blocking the walkways and meaning attendees have to walk through their smoke to get in and out of the event.  

“There will still be people at any event who want to smoke and it’s in your business interest to make provision for them,” said Nicola Boon, marketing manager at Keep Britain Tidy.

“It’s best to channel them to a designated and clearly marked smoking area and then provide plenty of ash bins. It will keep them, event organisers and all the non-smokers happy.

“If you don’t manage smoking provisions, you can end up with discarded butts everywhere which is deeply unpleasant and leads to a big, and possibly expensive, clearing up job.

“You can also end up with smokers congregating around entrances and exits at a venue, making for a horrible experience for non-smokers walking through them.”

Research by the Centre for Social Innovation in 2018, commissioned by Keep Britain Tidy as part of its #binthebutt campaign, found that discarded cigarette butts are the most common type of litter. 

“Cigarette butts are tricky for people to dispose of. They are still alight and they are smelly. Many don’t realise they are also harmful to the environment and are not biodegradable. You’re not going to put them straight in your pocket, so event organisers need to think ahead about providing a way to dispose of them safely,” continued Nicola.

Mark Wilson, sales manager at ESE Direct, which sells products such as shelters and cigarette bins, said that there are a huge number of options available to manage smoking at events.

“More permanent options are smoking shelters or wall-mounted cigarette bins. There are also products that can be relocated, such as freestanding ashtrays and outdoor cigarette bins such as the Smokers Ceasefire.”

How to cater for smokers…

  • Give smokers a designated, clearly-marked smoking area. Install a smoking shelter if you can, but if that’s not possible still set-aside an area and demarcate it using yellow and black tape, to block off an area.
  • Encourage smokers well away from entrances and exits where they block pedestrian flow and can annoy non-smokers.
  • Ensure plenty of provision of cigarette bins where smokers congregate. Ensure you have the right bin for the right conditions. Consider how much ash the bin needs to collect, whether it might get filled with rainwater or needs to be coated to protect against the weather, whether you want permanent wall-mounted bins or need to relocate them, how attractive the bin needs to be to fit in with business décor and whether it needs a separate ashtray. 
  • Make sure there is good signage – use yellow signs to let people know where they can smoke.


Thousands of pounds raised for charity – but hundreds of discarded cigarette butts.

A Charity women’s football tournament and family fun day at Sawbridgeworth Football Club, Hertfordshire raised a huge amount of funding, but unfortunately, the pitch was left littered with cigarette butts.  

When Cherry Jackson organised a charity football match in 2018 for Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide the event raised a whopping £10,000 – but clearing up the next day was a nightmare.

‘We were left with hundreds and hundreds of cigarette butts strewn across the back pitch where we had set up charity stalls,’ says Cherry. ‘It took five hours to pick them all up by hand and clear up litter.’ 

Cherry organised the now annual event after losing her daughter Georgia to suicide in 2017. George was 21, studying at Brighton University and a keen footballer. More than 120 women came from across the UK, to play in memory of Georgia. 

‘She loved football and had been playing since she was eight. She joined the women’s team at Sawbridgeworth at 16 and was proud to be the youngest team member. She gained so much confidence from football and loved playing at her local club. She also played for her University team Brighton Panthers,’ says Cherry. 

‘To lose my child in this way has been devastating, but I have found some solace by continuing to follow my daughter’s love of football and helping to raise money for this wonderful charity,’ says Cherry. 

Cherry was keen to avoid having to deal with cigarette-butts again at the 2019 event which raised a further £5,000. She asked ESE Direct to help and they donated Smokers Ceasefire bins. 

A little different to conventional bins you usually see around town, their unusual design extinguishes cigarettes and collects a huge 18-litres of cigarette debris. They are also easily relocated. Made from polyethylene and easy to pick up, move and empty they are a great solution for an event like the charity football match.

Cherry has raised £15,000 from the two events and plans to make it an annual event. See for details of future events. 

Molly joined the editorial team in March 2019. She has several years’ experience working in broadcast and journalism, as well as marketing and PR. Past experience includes working for the BBC and independent publishing houses. If you have a story you think Molly might be interested in, please email: