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Rethink Litter Hack-a-thon

Over the course of the last few months, The City of Cincinnati, Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, and Cintrifuse have been working together to understand a complex problem that plagues the city we all call home: litter. Litter isn’t just trash on the ground. It is something that affects every person living in Cincinnati — from public health and safety to the emotional wellbeing and economic health of our city as a whole. Our communities deserve better. 

To figure out what we needed to solve, we hosted experts from volunteer groups, city departments, and the city government to all get together in one room and get to the heart of the litter problem. Three primary issues came out of this session: 1) a lack of neighborhood pride and ownership, 2) excess consumption and unsustainable business practices, and 3) disconnected resources and efforts across the city. These issues formed the foundation of what we asked teams to solve during the Rethink Litter Hack-a-thon.

On April 6-8th, we hosted participants, experts, innovators, big corporations, and community leaders from all over the city in our pilot hack-a-thon in an exemplary showcase of the ecosystem coming together to support a problem. This first-ever city-wide hack-a-thon brought speed, agility, and fun to a hard-to-crack problem over the course of the three days. We had an outstanding 18 teams participate, spanning from grassroots groups, city government, startups, concerned citizens, high schools, extracurricular clubs, large universities, and community colleges, and ranging in ages from 13-80.

The goal of this hack-a-thon was not only to connect and catalyze the city and inspire innovation but to produce actionable, effective solutions that the City could implement to help turn the tide of litter in Cincinnati. To get our participants in this mindset, we hosted 20 hours of mentoring, including two days of online “office hours” featuring experts from the city, leading corporations, and the startup community. Additionally, we offered a catalog of resources to our participants, including the City of Cincinnati’s Open Data portal (trash delivery, recycling patterns, consumer complaints), Earth 911’s API, legal counsel, and pitch deck critique. 

This led to our cumulative pitch contest and celebration held at Union Hall on April 8th. We saw attendees from all over the city (yes, including Mayor Purveal!) come to hear the brilliant ideas our 18 teams had to share throughout the day. This pitch contest provided a platform to those who had never participated in “innovation” before and to teams with ideas that had been in development for months but didn’t have the proper avenues for publicity. And the pitches blew us away. The range of ideas spanned across all categories, ranging from simple guerilla marketing campaigns like Team Pig 311, the “Waste of Cincinnati” festival, and “Rubbish Runs” to crypto-powered “Neighborhood DAO” for litter management and “make art out of litter” NFT program (you can thank our 13-year old participant from InnoVation Girls for that one). We even saw some new product ideas, thanks to our teams from Product Refinery and You Shall Not Trash. 

From all the pitches heard, we awarded $3,500 to our winning teams, The Pig 311 and InnoVation Girls to bring their innovative ideas to life. Needless to say, Cincinnati is about to get a bit cleaner. 

We want to extend a special thank you to all of our participants and our judging panel. This event would not have been possible without you. Additionally, we want to thank the catalyst for this project: Councilmember Keating and her team. It is drive and ambition like this that will propel Cincinnati into the future! Finally, we extend our gratitude to Mayor Aftab Purveal, and Councilmembers Meeka Owens M.Ed. and Mark Jeffreys for being a constant drumbeat of support.

“It’s clear from this that Cities are potent, under-leveraged innovation labs. The pitches we heard during the Rethink Litter Hack-a-thon were brilliantly disruptive, and have huge potential to change Cincinnati for the better.”

Pete Blackshaw, CEO of Cintrifuse Tweet