Ottawa startup launches pilot project with Quartier Vanier BIA

Tom Pechloff
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An Ottawa startup joined forces Wednesday with the Quartier Vanier BIA in a pilot program it hopes can rid streets of cigarette butts not only across the city but eventually from coast to coast.

CigBins launched a pilot project with the Quartier Vanier BIA July 16.

CigBins is a new company started by two students and a recent graduate from the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa.

According to company co-founder Kathleen Kemp, the company will not only install its cigarette bins but will also collect them on a regular basis and work with a company to recycle them into plastic products that will be put to industrial use such as milk crates. While Ms. Kemp did not reveal the company they’ll be working with, she said it was a reputable firm that has experience doing this kind of work.

Ms. Kemp said she and her partners, all non-smokers, did months of research and are confident their program, with its unique bins, will work.

“We’ve spoken with smokers about why they don’t like the bins that are currently out on city streets,” said Ms. Kemp. “Our bins feature a wide opening so smokers can easily flick a cigarette butt into the unit.”

Ms. Kemp said she and her partners know of no other cigarette butt recycling program that is all-encompassing. She said other programs force the user to do the actual recycling. She said CigBins will do it all for customers.

Up until now, CigBins has relied on business competitions and community grants to get enough startup capital. Terms of the contract with the Vanier BIA were not released installation and servicing fees will be negotiated with each individual customer but Ms. Kemp said the pilot project is the beginning of what she hopes will be bigger things.

“We are going to be focusing on working with more customers across the city of Ottawa to expand the program,” she said. “We’re going to be doing a media campaign for smokers to educate them on the harmful effects of cigarette butt litter in order to entice them to actually dispose of their cigarette butts properly, and then we hope to expand further outside the Ottawa area and offer our service to multiple cities and municipalities across Canada.”

She said the education campaign is necessary because her company’s research has showed smokers aren’t aware of the environmental hazards of cigarette butts.

“They think they are biodegradable. However, that is not the case because of the plastic filters that are in cigarette butts, so we want to tell them about the harmful effects so it entices them to dispose of them properly rather than put them on the ground and cause those effects to our ecosystem,” said Ms. Kemp.

CigBins got its start at HUB Ottawa’s 2013 Launch Some Good event last August. Over the course of one weekend, teams were built to start companies to deal with social issues. CigBins came out the winner.

HUB managing director David Fleming said Ms. Kemp was one of the first people he connected with when he started his job six weeks ago. He said her company is exactly what HUB is going for with the event, which will have a 2014 version sometime in September.

Organizations: Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa

Geographic location: Ottawa, Canada

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