Emin Israfil offers smarter cleanup solution
App uses technology to examine litter trends
Emin Israfil ’09 says the idea behind running apps and the ways we engage virtually can create cleaner communities.
With longtime friend Elena Guberman, Israfil launched the app Rubbish. The San Francisco-based venture uses technology to understand litter trends.
The Rubbish beam — a hand-held litter-grabbing claw — is a key part of the equation. Download the Rubbish app, put your smartphone on the beam, sync via Bluetooth and you’re ready to go. Each time a piece of litter is picked up, a picture is taken in the app. Data is analyzed to highlight areas of a city that need attention.
For example, Rubbish installed a cigarette disposal bin in a part of San Francisco that, according to the company’s data, had a tremendous amount of cigarette butts. The result: a 50% reduction in cigarette butts on the ground.
“One of the most valuable things about Rubbish is that our data helps local leaders develop smarter public policy,” Israfil says. “We go to the city and say: ‘A particular street is dirty after three cleanups, so let’s do something about it.’ We’ve also integrated the app with 311 [non-emergency municipal services], so if you see something that’s too big or dangerous to deal with, submit it through the app and the city takes care of it.”
Israfil pursued a pre-med track at Binghamton — majoring in molecular biology and genetics — but decided against going to medical school. His creation turned out to be helpful during a global health crisis.
“When the coronavirus had us under lockdown, all our cleanup events were canceled, but it opened up other opportunities,” Israfil says. “We were able to work with business improvement districts tracking their cleaning efforts to make sure all areas were being cleaned.”
Rubbish doesn’t need a pandemic or huge cleaning teams to show its value, Israfil says. An individual using the app can make a difference by being consistent and persistent.
“We encourage people to start [cleaning up] where they live,” Israfil says. “If you start local, you see and experience the difference. You see it in the data and experience it with your eyes. [Over time], you’ll notice you’re picking up significantly less. It doesn’t take long to impact your neighborhood.”