A litter fighting (and eating) robot will be patrolling the streets of Ghent in the coming weeks in an effort to raise awareness of the growing problem of cigarette butts littering the city.
Fons the robot – voiced by local resident Robrecht Vanden Thoren – is part of the “Can I have your cigarette butts?” campaign launched by the city, which will see the slogan appear on 120 dustbins and at 50 bus shelters.
For his part, Fons will be present in Ghent with his creator Jan De Coster, asking smokers to give them their cigarette butts, or just striking up a conversation with passers-by in Dutch and English.
According to figures from Stad Ghent, 49% of all litter collected in Flanders is of cigarette butts. These filters are highly toxic take 10 to 15 years to decompose, and even then, microplastics remain in the environment. Furthermore, they are often found in the stomachs of animals such as birds and dogs, making them very sick.
“Butts on the ground are not necessary. Smokers can dispose of their cigarette ends in the ashtrays in the green waste bins everywhere. Or in the portable ashtrays that we distribute free of charge. In this way, together we can ensure a clean Ghent,” explained Bram Van Braeckevelt, alderman for Public Cleanliness.
In addition to Fons, Ghent will install nine new cigarette ashtrays in the city and has invested in portable cigarette ashtrays which will be given out for free by community guards and newspaper shops on the Zonnestraat, Rooigemlaan and Brusselsesteenweg.
Cigarette butt litter is a problem in many Belgian cities and were recently the target of a volunteer-led clean-up in Brussels, when some 65, 000 butts were collected on Car Free Sunday.