Cigarette poles and pocket ashtrays to reduce cigarette litter around campus

06 Sep 2023

Students and employees wishing to smoke on the edge of the campus can now use little pocket ashtrays, which are handed out by the university. These then need to be emptied in one of ten new cigarette poles on the grounds.

“Keep our campus clean! Use these portable ashtrays and dispose of your cigarettes in one of the poles.” This text can be read on the sealable tubes that are being distributed around the RU campus as of last week. The tubes can be used as a portable ashtray. Smokers are requested to use these to store their cigarette butts, and then empty the tubes in one of ten new cigarette poles.

The entire university campus has been smoke-free since August 1st, 2020. While it’s not uncommon for one or two students and employees to sneak a cigarette every once in a while, the amount of smoking around university entrances has been significantly reduced.

Smoking in public

One downside of the new regulations is that people have started smoking several hundred meters further away, on the public road at the edge of the campus. Cigarette butts are then tossed on the ground there, creating plenty of litter. Several spaces at the Heyendaalseweg and the Erasmuslaan are regularly covered in a layer of cigarette butts.

‘We could help in cleaning up the mess’

‘We’ve placed cigarette poles around campus and distributed portable ashtrays to put a stop to the littering’, according to a university spokesperson. ‘Though we have a smoke-free campus, we can’t prevent people from smoking in public spaces. However, the cigarette butts left behind are bad for the environment.’

The portable ashtray. Photo: Vox

‘What we can do instead is help to clean up the mess. That is why we’ve placed cigarette poles around the edges of the campus, and we’ve started distributing portable ashtrays.’ It is unknown how many of these ashtrays have been passed out.

Minimising cigarette waste

The endeavour is a cooperation with Peukenzee, a Dutch organisation which aims to minimise cigarette waste. “It is our goal to create awareness, so that people will stop dumping cigarette filters on the ground”, as stated on their website.

Peukenzee will recycle the cigarette filters collected in the poles as much as possible. According to the spokesperson, the poles were placed in areas with a lot of cigarette waste. There will be three poles at the Erasmuslaan, five at the Heyendaalseweg, and one each at both the Philip van Leydenlaan and the Driehuizerweg.

So far, the campaign appears to be working; as of Tuesday morning, the streets are relatively clean, and the poles contain a decent amount of ash and filters.

However, there is still some room for improvement. The QR code on the portable ashtrays, which is supposed to point people to one of the poles, cannot be scanned. Additionally, not everyone appears to have been made aware of the campaign. When doing the campus rounds, several students and employees were spotted tossing their cigarettes on the ground, not even 20 meters away from a pole.

Translated by Jasper Pesch

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