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Brilliant Behavior Change Campaign Helping Put a Dent in London Litter

Images credit: Hubbub

On the heels of a coalition of British NGOs and businesses issuing a “litter manifesto” to help clean up the UK last month, research from Keep Britain Tidy has revealed that an anti-littering campaign launched in May has achieved rather impressive results.

In May, the Westminster City Council teamed up with Veolia and Hubbub — the non-profit behind the “manifesto,” which uses different hubs of activity to interest mainstream consumers in sustainability issues — to launch the “Neat Streets” campaign, aimed at tackling the litter problem on one of London’s busiest streets. The campaign specifically targeted cigarette butts and chewing gum — the two items responsible for 78 percent of all observed litter — through a series of interactive installations and exhibitions over the summer on Villiers Street (near Charing Cross railway station), including giant cigarettes, talking trash bins and gumdrop-recycling bins.

Keep Britain Tidy has found that the pilot schemes helped chewing gum litter fall by 54 percent in June and 26 percent in July. The research also suggests that littering has fallen by 26 percent overall since the campaign began.

Scott Edgell, Veolia’s general manager for central London, said: “We are really delighted with the results we are seeing so far with this campaign. As a business, we are always looking for new ways to help us protect the environment and keep London looking its best. The Neat Streets campaign seems to be making real progress and anything that reduces the amount of cigarette ends hitting the pavement is very worthwhile indeed.”

Research released by Populus prior to the campaign showed that the public favors positive reinforcement to encourage individuals to change behavior, rather than increasing fines or council spending o tackle littering. a majority (54 percent) would like to confront someone they saw dropping litter but would not have the nerve — only 15 percent would do so.

The campaign will continue on Villiers Street, adding new ways to encourage people not to litter, including:

  • A ‘Fumo’ music pole from Holland that rewards the public with audio and visual displays when cigarette butts are disposed of in the pole
  • A 'voting ashtray' that engages smokers with weekly sporting questions that are answered by putting cigarette butts in the correct compartment
  • The 'Butts Out' campaign, for which local pubs are stocking portable ashtrays for smokers to use on the go

Keep Britain Tidy says it will continue to monitor litter habits alongside the new installations in Villiers Street before reporting their findings in October.

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