John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
"Fumo" emits happy beeps and blipping lights anytime it's fed a cigarette butt.
Cigarette butts are the cockroaches of the litter world: Their numbers are massive and you're rarely more than a few feet from one in the urban environment. In America, butts are the most prevalent form of litter on the roadways; worldwide, they're the No. 1 item found uglifying beaches and waterways.
The ubiquity of these stink-tubes is a problem, as the chemicals they leach out are harmful to animals and could be contaminating environments with heavy metals. But with the majority of smokers admitting they've tossed butts onto the ground at some point, it's a problem without a glaring solution (at least until the whole planet turns to vaping).
Over at Ioglo, though, designers think they've discovered a way to make sure more butts get to the proper receptacles. The creative firm, which has offices in the Netherlands and Istanbul, have built a newfangled ashtray called "Fumo" meant to alter the behavior of serial litterers. Looking like a sleek smokestack rising from the sidewalk, the tray has sensors that when fed a butt respond with all kinds of pleasing stimuli, from blinking lights to a bevy of peppy noises.
The Ioglo people say they wanted to avoid the top-down method of litter control – which they define as "making new laws" – in favor of a bottom-up tactic to "make disposing more inviting and adventurous." They explain:
Fumo is the first smoking pole that addresses the problem the other way around; why shouldn’t we give smokers a reward instead of punishing them? Why shouldn’t we add fun in order to change people’s behavior for the better?
Fumo rewards smokers by giving them a short audiovisual show consisting of various types of audio (music, jingles, sounds, voices) and visuals created by lights, dancing as an equalizer on the music.
The folks who're testing out "Fumo" in the below video certainly seem receptive to its sensuous wiles – so much so you wonder if tobacco is all they're smoking. Check out the dude grooving to the club beat at the end. As for the guy who received what sounds like a cheesy novelty car horn for his troubles, well, Ioglo might want to swap that one out for something less startling: