PORTLAND – Mike Roylos came to Portland’s first Civic Hack Day with nothing more than a plastic tube and an innovative idea for collecting cigarette butts tossed on city streets and sidewalks.

By the time he left Sunday night, Roylos had a slickly painted, black and white tube with a butler’s face, mustache and bow tie painted on it and hope that his idea for making Portland cleaner could work. It also had a hole drilled in its fake mouth where smokers could place their butts.

If the city grants its permission, the so-called “Buttler” could be mounted on posts throughout Portland, providing smokers with a convenient way to dispose of their cigarette butts.

Each Buttler, made from recyclable plastic, can hold up to 1,800 cigarette butts, according to Roylos, who owns Spartan Grill and Coffee shop in Portland’s Monument Square.

Earlier this year, Roylos started his No Butts Now! campaign out of frustration that a new city ordinance imposing a $100 fine for butt tossing was not being enforced.

Roylos credits the civic hackers — a group of innovative thinkers and technology-savvy individuals — who gathered at Peloton Labs on Congress Street with polishing his idea and making it marketable.

“I kept telling myself there had to be a better way to do this,” said Roylos, who at one point during his No Butts Now! campaign offered a 5-cent reward for each butt that was picked up and returned to him.

The National Civic Day of Hacking took place Saturday and Sunday at close to 100 locations across the country, including events in Portland, Biddeford and Bangor. Each group of civic hackers tried to use technology to solve a local civic or social challenge.

But unlike computer hackers, who illegally breach a computer network’s system, these hackers were community-minded problem solvers who tapped into their expertise to improve the quality of life in their communities.

Portland’s hack day was organized by Samuel Mateosian and Sam Frankel. Mateosian is director of interactive media for Big Room Studios. Frankel returned to Windsor recently after serving for four years in West Africa with the Peace Corps.

Several city officials, including Mayor Michael Brennan, and people like Roylos came to the two-day event to listen or to present their ideas. Hackers then voted for their top three proposals.

Roylos was one of the top vote getters, as was See, Click and Fix — a transparent system for reporting infrastructure problems such as dangerous potholes, to the city of Portland.

“We had to discuss what was popular and what was possible,” Frankel said. The See, Click and Fix issue will need more research before it can be integrated into the city’s reporting system.

But the Buttler could be implemented soon, provided that the city will allow the tubes to be affixed to posts.

Mateosian said his group attached a Buttler to a pole outside Geno’s Rock Club — a Congress Street bar — on Saturday night. Not only was it eye catching, but several patrons deposited their butts in the canister.

The civic hackers also produced a video of the Buttler and its encounters with Geno’s customers and posted it on YouTube.

Roylos said the next step, after getting the city’s approval to move forward, would be to establish an “Adopt a Buttler” program, where store owners could buy the tubes and install them outside their businesses.

“As long as they are convenient, I think they will be used,” Roylos said. “It’s a pretty simple solution for a pretty prevalent problem.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the Adopt a Buttler project may go to the website http://adoptabuttler.com.

 

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at [email protected]