In an effort to control street litter, new Illinois legislation that will take effect on Jan. 1 will make it illegal to toss a cigarette butt on the ground, according to the Rockford Register Star, and anyone who breaks the law will face up to $1,500 in fines, and that's just for their first conviction.
According to the national lobbying organization Americans for Nonsmokers Rights, cigarette butts are "the most commonly discarded pieces of waste worldwide," with an estimated 1.69 billion pounds of butts ending up as toxic waste every year. The new amendment to Illinois's Litter Control Act, HB 3243, advocates that cigarette butts are a dangerous form of litter for the environment.
"Cigarette butts are not biodegradeable," Lori Gummow, executive director of Keep Northern Illinois Beautiful, said to the Rockford Register Star. "They're made of cellulose acetate, [a plastic]. They get stuck in storm water sewers, and birds eat them and can't digest them. Run over them with a lawn mower, and they just puff out." He added that trash can devalue a piece of property anywhere from 7 to 10 percent, though enforcing the new law will be difficult, and she hopes that police officers will take it seriously.
However, as Rockford Park District Police Sgt. John Piccolin told the Star, he'll personally have no issue with cracking down on street litterers. "If I'm driving down the street and I see someone do that [flick a butt out the window], I would take enforcement action," Piccolin confirmed.
If someone is caught flicking a butt outside of their car window or on their ground for the first time, their fine will not exceed $1,500, as it is classified as a class B misdemeanor, though their second conviction would be class A and could run them over that amount. If they exceed the third and fourth convictions, however, the cigarette-flicker could be punished with a $25,000 fine and no less than a year in prison.
So if you're planning on visiting the state next year, be mindful of where you leave your cigarette butt, as you could find yourself paying some serious consequences.