Boston Makes a Game of Litter-Free Sidewalks

Boston Makes a Game of Litter-Free Sidewalks

A voting-style cigarette butt bin (Credit: City of Boston)

Boston’s going full barista in an attempt to keep sidewalks litter free. Yesterday the city began installing receptacles for cigarette butts that feature two deposit slots, each with a question, a la those dueling tip jars you see in coffee shops.

One of the models asks depositors: “Which superpower would you want?” The slots are labeled “flight” and “invisibility.” The front of the receptacles are clear, so passersby can watch the butts pile up under the more popular answer.

The playful anti-littering campaign is designed after a similar project in London. Boston’s program, dubbed Neat Streets, is counting on interactivity to encourage smokers to become more environmentally aware.

“Boston is a beautiful city, but to keep it that way we must all do our part to keep our streets clean,” Mayor Marty 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.”

Walsh’s administration has raised the age for buying cigarettes in the city to 21 and enacted a ban on smoking in city parks that carries a $250 fine for violators.

The boxes, which are being installed along high foot traffic corridors, were designed by members of a Cambridge makerspace. Residents can submit suggestions for questions to the city of Boston on Twitter, using the hashtags #NeatStreets or #NeatStreetsBos, through March.

Another design, unveiled by the mayor on Twitter yesterday, reads “Which is more essential this winter?” Options are “Warm Hat” and “Thick Boots.”


Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.

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Tags: bostonwalkabilitytrash

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