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Picture of the smoking area

Ash deals with cigarette butts!

Most of us know that cigarette butts should not be discarded on the ground or in nature, but even so they tend to end up there. With a newly started nudging project at Delphi, AF Bostäder wants to inspire more people to dispose of their cigarette butts in the correct way, for the benefit of wellbeing and the environment. At the heart of the project is AF Bostäder’s newly engaged staff member: Ash.

Every year around 1 billion cigarette butts end up on the ground in Sweden and according to the Keep Sweden Tidy Foundation, cigarette butts account for over half of all the rubbish in cities and parks, and on beaches. The cigarette filters are made of plastic, and it can take over 100 years for them to biodegrade.

“Cigarette butts are unpleasant to see and very bad for the environment,” says Anna, former Property Manager at AF Bostäder. “They are also small and get hidden in flower beds, lawns and paved areas. They can’t be picked up by sweeping machines, they must be picked up by hand which is a strain on the body and enormously time-consuming for our caretakers. At AF Bostäder, we devote what amounts to a full-time position just to deal with cigarette butts.”

In 2021, the students in a test area at Delphi got to know Ash – a new “staff member” at AF Bostäder. Ash is the outward face of a nudging project that is in a trial phase to ensure that cigarette butts don’t end up on the ground to begin with.

“Nudging is about offering easy paths to a good choice – using small nudges in the right direction achieves changes in behaviour,” says Anna. “Such as, for example, making it easier to throw away your cigarette butts in the right place.”

All AF Bostäder housing is smoking-free indoors, and of course it would be best if no one smoked at all. But at the same time all tenants are to be satisfied, and the company does not believe in a total ban. The focus of the project has therefore been to reduce the number of cigarette butts that are thrown from the large communal balconies, in barbecue areas and outside entrances. And also reduce smoking near windows and air intakes.

“After interviews with students on site, we have, together with a nudging company, developed a concept with specially designed amusing ashtrays for balconies and outdoor environments, communication with encouraging messages and newly-built “butt zones” with small enclosures where it is comfortable to sit and easy to throw away cigarette butts in the right place,” says Anna. “The campaign has also been highlighted in a mail circular and in social media. Ash is everywhere and uses his special sense of humour and charm to get everyone on the same page.”

“Now the project is to be evaluated before we decide how we are to proceed, but we can already see at this stage that there have been far fewer cigarette butts on the ground. This has considerably simplified the daily work of our caretakers. The nudging project has also confirmed that we make better progress by using humour and inspiration than by rules and bans,” concludes Anna.


Latest update May 31, 2022

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