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Boston initiative aims to keep cigarette butts off the ground

Instead of scolding smokers for flicking their smoldering cigarettes onto the street, Boston officials are turning the act of discarding the unsightly butts into a game.

As part of a new outdoor campaign launched by Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office, called “Neat Streets,” custom-made cigarette disposal boxes will be set up in areas with heavy foot traffic throughout the city this month.

The idea is to keep people from throwing the butts on the ground, while sparking their interest in being more environmentally aware.

A cigarette receptacle that is part of Mayor Walsh’s “Neat Streets” campaign.City of Boston

Now here’s the fun part: Each rectangular box will be see-through, and have two small holes for people to put their cigarettes in. Above the holes, there will be a question and two answers to choose from.


For example, one of the red boxes will say: “Which superpower do you want?” Smokers can then “vote” by placing their cigarette butts into the hole with the word “Flight” or “Invisibility” above it.

Another receptacle might say: “More essential Boston winter gear? Hats or boots?” Smokers pick their favorite answer, stub out their cigarette, and then take a vote.

The interactive public space initiative, modeled after a similar project in London, by an organization called Hubbub, is aimed at keeping the city’s streets clean and free of litter.

“Boston is a beautiful city, but to keep it that way we must all do our part to keep our streets clean,” Walsh said in a statement. “This smart and innovative effort incorporates a public-polling process to engage our residents and visitors in protecting our environment.”

The cigarette boxes were created with help from Cambridge makerspace danger!awesome, located in Central Square.

“The city of Boston approached danger!awesome with a unique design challenge. We’re a makerspace that prides itself on affordable design and fabrication of anything our community can imagine,” said Nadeem Mazen, a co-owner of danger!awesome.


“In this case, we were able to make ‘Neat Streets’ into a game by designing, fabricating, and fireproofing these units quickly and affordably,” said Mazen, who is also a city councilor in Cambridge.

The receptacles will be installed at the end of February, officials said, and residents can come up with their own suggestions for questions to be written on the boxes using the social media hashtags #NeatStreets or #NeatStreetsBos.

Below is a video of people at danger!awesome making the prototypes of the boxes:

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.