I see three ashtrays strategically placed between long benches, which sit in front of raised concrete planters. Seemingly intended as a pleasant place for office workers to sit and eat lunch, read a book or soak in a few rays during a summer smoke break, from a distance the installation was arrestingly impressive to yours truly, litter investigator.
My partner and I approached to take a closer look. There were browning cigarette filters protruding cleanly out of the sand. Butts were concentrated in the centre, but the numbers seemed sparse. The receptacles provided quite a wide circular area of sand as a target for the ends of cigarettes. These impressive bins can handle thousands upon thousands of properly discarded butts. Why do we see only 50 or so per bin? Why more sand than butts?
Detectives need to study everything. We were asking all the right questions even though we already knew the answers.
Sure enough, despite hosting the Shwarzenegger of all ashtrays, being head and shoulders above most and having one of the best set-ups we have seen, the smoking area was littered with castaway cigarette ends, on the ground, in the cracks, under the benches, in nooks and corners, blowing down sewer grates, sullying the planter boxes. Not the image the landscaper had in mind when designing the space and caring for the butt-invaded greenery.
To a smoker those ashtrays should be alluring. Clean? Yes. Attractive? Yes. Easy? Accessible? Yes and yes! Yet thousands of butts pockmarked the vicinity. It happens everywhere because smokers are blind to their littering. While some nations attempt to educate, Ontario, Canada, for one, is notoriously silent about telling smokers that butt throwing is littering, an unlawful deed.
Who can design the sexiest ashtray, one all smokers will use? My partner thinks he has an answer.
It would be shaped like a concrete trough, the kind of vessel used to hold pig slop. It would run along the sides of areas where people smoke and where smokers walk. It would be a can’t-miss contraption filled with extinguishing sand. Wherever they were, smokers could flip smoldering butts in the endless troughs, facilitating collections and keeping them out of the general environment.
Some people don’t know the butts are worth money in the recycling trade. Imagine the troughs full of money we’d make if smokers used ashtrays like they’re supposed to. Then smokers would be the good guys. What about it, smokers? Can I count you in?
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