Novel British idea to help keep Madrid fag-end free


MANUELA CARMENA, the mayor of Madrid, has become obsessed with finding a way to clean the city up and may have found help from unexpected quarters as the council is running an experiment with Ballot Bins, an invention which has already proved popular in London.

“A clean city is not the one that is cleaned the most, it is the one that is dirtied the least,” Carmena said in February when she presented her street cleaning campaign, which included distribution of more than 38,000 pocket ashtrays. Cigarette ends are an ongoing problem, with an estimated 500,000 picked up from the city streets every day.

To push the subject home, and also make the most of Spaniards’ innate love of football and passion for their chosen team, Ballot Bins have been installed on some streets of the city. The bins include two containers, one bearing a picture of Atletico Madrid and the other of Real Madrid football teams, and smokers are invited to deposit their stubbed-out cigarette butts in their bin of choice to register their vote in response to the question “Who will win the Champions League?”


If the bins prove popular, the city council will consider using them as a regular way to encourage smokers to stop dropping their butts on the streets.

This could also help save smokers considerable fines, as under city bylaws dropping any form of small rubbish including cigarette ends, chewing gum or bits of paper on the street can lead to penalties of up to €750.



  1. I have often wondered if a cigarette filter could be made of a digestible material, such as popped corn or some similar foodstuff. Then the pigeons could help to clear up cities….. Just a thought.


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