Estimating and mapping cigarette butt littering in urban environments: A GIS approach

Roberto Valiente, Francisco Escobar, Jamie Pearce, Usama Bilal, Manuel Franco, Xisca Sureda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background
Cigarette butts are some of the most common form of litter in the World, causing severe environmental damage. Analysing spatial distribution of cigarette butts in the urban environment may lead to useful insights for further interventions to reduce this form of litter. In this study, we present a GIS-based methodology to estimate the density of cigarette butts across a large urban area.

Methods
We collected information about discarded cigarette butts in outdoor public spaces by systematic social observation in a diverse sample of areas in Madrid, Spain. We used these data to estimate the density of cigarette butts in public spaces around the entire city by performing GIS analyses based on Kernel Density Estimations. Last, we validated these measures using on-field observations in a set of locations across the city.

Results
Hospitality venues and public transportation stops were the places with the highest concentrations of cigarette butts, followed by the entrances to educational venues and playgrounds. Central districts showed the highest amount of cigarette butts in contrast to peripheral ones. We found that our measure had good validity, with a correlation coefficient of 0.784.

Discussion
This is the first study estimating and mapping cigarette butt litter in a large urban area. We identified a set of outdoor public places with high concentrations of cigarette butts and found geographical unevenness in the distribution of this pervasive form of litter across the study area. Our findings demonstrate the ubiquitous nature of cigarette butts in the urban environment and the need for interventions to reduce its impact on both people's health and the environment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number109142
JournalEnvironmental Research
Volume183
Early online date17 Jan 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

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