Two-in-five young people admit to throwing litter on French motorways

A new campaign is seeking to educate people and reduce the problem

A man throws a cigarette butt from his car window while driving
Throwing litter from cars, especially cigarette butts, can be environmentally damaging and even cause serious forest fires
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More than two-in-five respondents aged 35 and under have admitted to throwing litter from car windows on French motorways, according to a new survey.

The results of the poll, from Vinci Autoroutes, were first published by French media outlet FranceBleu on Friday (July 28).

It found 27% of respondents admitted to throwing rubbish out of car windows while on the motorway, rather than waiting to find a bin.

However, among those aged 35 and under, the percentage increased significantly, to 42% (six percentage points higher than last year).

When it comes to cigarette butts - the throwing of which from cars can easily spark a forest fire - the figures are just as worrying.

Almost a quarter of smokers (24%) admitted to throwing butts from their cars, rising to 39% among people aged 35 and under.

However, this does vary by geographical region. Almost two-in-five (39%) smokers in Ile-de-France and Grand Est admitted to throwing butts from their cars, whereas in the areas most affected by forest fires - such as Corsica, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur and Occitanie - the figure drops to 16%-17%.

Guilty conscience?

The majority of those who admitted throwing litter from their car said they felt guilty about it (57%), while 19% said they even felt ashamed.

A full 82% said they would be dissuaded from throwing rubbish out of their car window if there was someone else in the car, while 72% said that they would be willing to ‘re-educate’ a friend or family member who threw litter, by making a disapproving comment.

‘Throwers Anonymous’

In a bid to combat the problem, Vinci Autoroutes - a private firm that runs some of France’s toll motorways - has launched a new tongue-in-cheek campaign, featuring a support group in the style of group addiction therapy.

A video advert features a group called ‘Jettomanes Anonymes’, which loosely translates as ‘Throwing Addicts Anonymous’. The ‘addicts’ support each other and have a coach to help them work through the issue.

Different members explain their struggles with not throwing litter. One asks if ‘one drink can’ counts, while another is congratulated when she says “I’ve been using rubbish bins for two months!”.

They practise throwing litter into bins and driving along the road without throwing litter on the road.

Throwing litter, especially cigarette butts, can be particularly dangerous.

In August last year, investigators said that a discarded cigarette butt near a motorway rest stop was the likely cause of a 7,100-hectare fire in Var that killed two people and injured 26. A month earlier, a mayor in France banned people from smoking in cars and in the village centre to reduce the risk of forest fires.

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