Cigarette Disposal Kiosk

We developed a digital kiosk prototype to combat cigarette litter on university campuses by incentivizing and educating smokers about environmental impacts

A potential solution to collect the most littered item in the world!

This was the final project for a Prototyping class that was part of my minor in Human-Centered Design at UC San Diego. We were tasked with building a high-fidelity kiosk (in 5 weeks) that solved a user and business problem in the environmental space.

  • In our team of three, I was responsible for: interviews, wireframes, user tests, and early stages of prototyping.

  • Our target audience was cigarette smokers on a university campus.

  • The problem we hoped to solve was to reduce cigarette litter on campus by providing a smoker-friendly product with an infrastructure to properly dispose cigarette waste.

  • The business challenge we hoped to solve was to provide a user-friendly product that incentivized users to participate in our program, and was unique to others solutions already attempted by campus employees.

We started by understanding the problem and validating its prevalence on campus
Product Design for Capstone Project

We conducted a field study in various environments to understand the scope of litter and in which environments they were being disposed.

"The Most Littered Item in the World"

  • Filters made of cellulose acetate, a form of plastic that can take a decade or more to decompose

  • About 4.5 trillion cigarettes are littered each year

  • Cities spend between $3 million to $16 million on cigarette waste.

  • Researched existing solutions included Crowded Cities and Teracycle. Crowded cities focused on training crows to pick up cigarette butts.

  • Field study conducted on campus found that without proper infrastructure, butts were littered on ground. Signage was not enough.

Product Design for Capstone Project

Some interview questions were general, others were specific to the group we interviewed.


To understand more about the cigarette litter issue on campus, we interviewed three groups: smokers, non-smokers, and landscaping technicians (university employees responsible for cleanliness of campus).

  • We chose this method to get qualitative data on general behaviors and attitudes of our two main groups: smokers (S) and landscaping technicians (LT).

  • We interviewed three smokers, two landscaping technicians and two non-smokers.

  • For LT, we were curious about the current and previous strategies implemented to pick up cigarette litter.

  • For smokers, we wanted to understand their smoking habits and paid close attention to their disposal behaviors.

Product Design for Capstone Project

Our interview with landscaping technicians was very insightful and led us to deeply empathize with their experience.

Insights from Interviews

  • Landscaping Technicians

    • Provide a clean and safe campus conducive to learning

    • Empathy and personal behaviors are not easily changed

    • Time spent picking up litter = 10 hours of labor each day

    • Difficult to educate or talk to people who litter, no solution on the horizon

    • "Cigarette litter is disgusting and a shame"

  • Smokers

    • Enjoy smoking because of social element and to reduce stress

    • Value convenience when it comes to disposing butts. If there is no trash nearby, will throw it on ground.

    • Usually smoke one cigarette in one sitting/session

    • Smoke in areas where there is a nice view

Product Design for Capstone Project

We originally created five different user personas with all potential stakeholders involved, then decided to focus on two based on our interviews: Ron and Jamie.


Based on our interviews, we set up two primary personas. We referred to them throughout the entire product development process.

  • Our first personas were based on our own ideas of each persona group. Later on, we validated our personas based on real people that we interviewed.

  • For each persona, we focused on defining context, purpose, values, and preferences.

  • Personas helped us map out storyboards and define a mission statement for the product development.

  • The mission behind the product was designed based on solving the problem faced by our main persona; however, the physical design was based on our smoker persona given that they would be the primary group interacting with the kiosk.

After our research, we arrived at our mission statement to guide product development:

Provide an infrastructure that encourages and incentivizes proper cigarette disposal while educating smokers on environmental impact

Product Design for Capstone Project

On the left, we mapped out the user journey based on what action they performed. On the right, we have our first iteration of our digital screens on paper.


We began wireframing with paper early in the product development process to understand how users may interact with our digital interface.

  • It was important to do this because we could quickly mock-up screens and test them without having to spend too much time digitally designing.

  • We made low-fidelity wireframes using paper.

  • Based on user tests from students and a few smokers, we used Figma to create our high-fidelity screens.

  • We had three iterations and added new features as we gained insights from the user tests.

Product Design for Capstone Project

Above, you can see our 2nd prototype (left) and an early iteration of our third prototype (right).


We went through three main iterations in prototyping our physical kiosk:

  1. Low-fidelity prototype: working with the idea of users dropping in their cigarettes into kiosk. After iterating on this, we realized that smokers are not used to disposing cigarettes in this way. They prefer to "ash" their cigarette against a hard surface.

  2. Mid-fidelity prototype: A miniature version of our final prototype. We added a "lighter" feature to incentivize smokers to use the product. From our interviews, many smokers noted they often forget their lighter when they step out for a smoke break. By helping those without a light, we hoped to create an incentive for smokers to "return the favor" to recycle their butts with our kiosk.

  3. High-fidelity prototype: The final version was an up-to-scale kiosk with a working digital screen. We iterated on both our disposal and lighter features and tried to create a slick look to attract student smokers on campus.

Check out our three prototypes below (low to mid to high)!

Our mobile app was designed for users to record their data and collect rewards for recycling cigarette butts. Click on the navigation bar options to explore all pages.

UI Design

Once we tested out all usability mistakes, we started designing the final screens in Figma.

  • Based on our mood board exercises, we arrived at a warm, cool, clean, and innovative feel to our UI.

  • We were inspired to find an eco-friendly look & feel that was playful and unique to attract college students.

  • We created a style guide to serve as a guideline

  • We are really proud that we were able to create a simple design that was able to convey important information in an understandable way.

  • Our final design reflects our users preferences because they tend to prefer straightforward, easy, and recognizable products and experiences

  • This design helps achieve business goals because it is not overwhelming and invites users to participate without feeling like a burdensome task.

Click on the screen (drop a butt) to follow a complete experience.

UI Design Part 2

Our kiosk screen shows users the purpose and process of an interaction with the kiosk. Along the way, we guide the users and provide feedback on any action performed.

  1. The process begins once they drop in a cigarette butt.

  2. Once the butt is disposed, digital screen provides feedback as it processes the butt. Our educational component is engulfed as a part of the disposal process.

  3. Once cigarette butt is confirmed by IBM Watson Technology, user is guided to claim reward.

  4. Users can claim a reward of choice for their behavior that is environmentally friendly and beneficial to a variety of demographics.

  5. Receive reward and learn about how user behavior impacts others

  6. Once reward is claimed, user is encouraged to scan QR code to track their points and earn more rewards. The reward system incentivizes users to come back.

Our final kiosk integrated our final physical and digital designs
Product Design for Capstone Project

We took our final kiosk to the main plaza on campus to have users interact with our product and provide any feedback.

Final Kiosk

Our two physical features included:

Disposal Panel: For our "drop-in" disposal panel, we attempted to incorporate features that were typical to other cigarette disposals/behaviors in the real world. First, we noticed in our user research that smokers extinguish the fire by pressing up against a hard surface (ashing their cigarette). We incorporated this by providing a back "wall". Secondly, smokers usually flick their cigarettes on the floor or into trash cans. We incorporated this act by tilting the disposal away from the user, so that if thrown against it, the cigarette would fall inside the pocket.

Lighter Feature: The lighter feature is added to this kiosk as a result of our user research and to incentivize smokers to participate in our interaction. From our interviews with smokers, many noted that they often forget their lighter when they step out for a smoke break. From the onset, we wanted this kiosk to appear approachable to smokers. By helping those without a light, we hope to create an incentive for smokers to “return the favor” by recycling their butts after they’ve finished smoking.

For our design process, we were voted one of the top 3 kiosks out of 15 others

What have I learned from this project?

The biggest takeaways from this project for me was:

  1. Importance of understanding and empathizing with primary stakeholders involved in a potential intervention

  2. Taking time to understand the problem before jumping into a solution

  3. Focusing on small but incremental iterations in product development

  • One of our biggest struggles was understanding how we could incentivize smokers to engage with our product. From our interviews with landscaping technicians, we understood that behaviors aren't easily changed. They had implemented many solutions that failed and we were beginning to feel worried that our solution may be noble but may not actually solve the problem.

  • We attempted to address this issue by really understanding our smoker persona. We observed their smoking process and wanted to create a product that offered "favors". Many times, smokers expressed that they felt like outcasts because signage was not warm or welcoming. We incorporated features to address problems that smokers may face and designed our kiosk so that process was simple and seamless to interact with.

Overall, this was a tremendous learning opportunity for me. To work in a fast-paced environment while being exposed to a variety of design techniques was exciting and felt like we were validating our solution along the way. I built great relationships with my two teammates and all of us were able to use our skills to work together to build a great product.