It's been an exceptionally hot and stinky July in Beirut, where government paralysis means nobody's picked up the trash since July 17. With the malodorous mountains piling up, #UberRecycle has opportunistically sprung to the rescue.
For the past two days, Beirut residents have been calling Uber drivers to pick up their trash. The company said in a statement that it has partnered with Live Love Beirut and Advanced Car Rental for a weeklong initiative called #UberRecycle.
Beirut residents can pick a "recycle" option on their app between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., summoning one of four vans to pick up their trash. The rubbish gets passed on to arcenciel, a secular development and preservation organization, for recycling. Everything is free.
Uber has run similar stunts elsewhere, capitalizing on local circumstances to promote its brand. We've seen Uber ice cream deliveries in the heat of a Chinese summer, Uber puppy playdates in India, and pop-up Uber gay weddings during San Francisco's Pride Weekend.
The Beirut trash initiative is especially attractive because it spotlights how a tech company can fill gaps left by sclerotic local government. Lebanon is wracked by political dysfunction, and hasn't had a president for 14 months. #UberRecycle complements the company's larger claim that private transport is always better than regulated taxi services.
"As a technology company, we can turn things around very quickly," Uber's marketing manager, Eliana Bou Melhem, told The Huffington Post in an email. "Reaction been great, everyone sees a real need for this and we are happy to be doing our part."
Bou Melhem wouldn't disclose how much trash Uber had collected, though she did say the four vans were constantly in use during the five-hour service window on Wednesday and Thursday.
Beirut residents are praising #UberRecycle on Twitter, and local news outlets have urged residents to use private companies until the government resolves the trash problem. "We can put an end to this garbage crisis by sorting our own trash and contacting the tens of companies in Lebanon that recycle," Blog Baladi wrote.
That's what Uber hopes, too. The initiative will end Aug. 4. Uber's general manager, Sebastien Wakim, told the Daily Star he'd like residents to continue using arcenciel's recycling services.
Check out some happy customers:
Clarification: An earlier version of this story described arcenciel as a Christian NGO. It is actually a secular organization motivated by Christian values that serves people of all religions, races and genders.