Cigarette butts are gross – whether they drift onto beaches, pollute our waterways, or endanger wildlife. But many cities in the Middle East, where smoking remains common, neglect to provide outlets for residents to discard their stinky stubs. That’s why three Lebanese electrical engineering students designed Urbin – a sleek disposal unit.
Last September Lebanon banned public smoking, though nobody at the time could have guessed that it would actually come to pass.
But there has been an unintended negative consequence of the law designed to protect non-smokers from having to expose themselves to toxic secondhand smoke.
It turns out that smokers turned outside bars and restaurants with their cigarettes often don’t have a proper way to throw away their butts, so they up chucking them on the ground instead.
This is the origin of the soggy, non-biodegradeable stubs that eventually make their way into rivers and seas.
One of the founders, Akram Harb, shared the genesis of Urbin’s development with The Daily Star.
“I went to London to study for a year,” said Harb, “and it struck me how rare it is to see people throwing their cigarette butts on the floor, because there you have law enforcement. A friend of mine got fined 50 pounds [$75] for throwing a cigarette butt on the floor. It shocked me, because in Lebanon it doesn’t matter, it’s not a big deal.”
When he returned to Beirut, he and his partners Eddy Mansour and Joe Khalifeh started working on stylish prototypical solutions to the pollution problem that people could get behind. This was right around the time of the smoking ban’s onset.
Nine models and seven prototypes and Urbin is ready to hit the street. The first bin has been installed outside a trendy restaurant in Gemnayzeh, and the group intends to distribute a further 99 to establishments throughout the city.
The butt disposal units are sleek and stylish, but also melt into the surrounding grey urban environment. So it doesn’t interfere with the decor of any businesses that take them on.
In order to make the easy-to-clean units self-sustaining, a small plexiglass window holds advertisements. When the Urbin becomes more popular, the theory goes that advertisers will start paying big bucks to have their message broadcast among this crucial demographic of people.
It’s a brilliant concept and we hope it takes off.