Clean up campaign to use behavioural science to end littering epidemic

An anti-littering campaign headed up by former Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman is to use 'nudge theory' to cure Britain's littering bug.

The Clean Up Britain campaign estimates littering costs the UK around £1bn per year

The Clean Up Britain campaign estimates littering costs the UK around £1bn per year

Littering cost councils £1bn to clear up in 2010, with 48% of Britains admitting they have littered.

But the Clean Up Britain (CLUB) campaign and Warwick Business School have set out to use behavioural science theory to try and stop the epidemic.

‘Nudge theory’ has been suggested by the partnership as a potential new way of stopping littering. Nudge theory has been previously used by the Government’s Behavioural Insights Team in the past to try to persuade people to pay their taxes on time and encourage people to insulate their homes.

Nudge theory involves encouraging behaviour change by making it easier and preferable, but does not make it mandatory.

Jeremy Paxman, who heads up CLUB, said changing peoples’ behaviour was the only sustainable solution to Britain’s costly litter problem.

“Like drink-driving, we have to make dropping litter socially unacceptable, and change the attitudes and behaviour of litterers,” said Paxman. “CLUB is delighted to be collaborating closely with Warwick Business School, and harnessing their renowned expertise in behavioural change to reduce litter.”

Behavioural insights

Professor Daniel Read from Warwick Business School believes littering was a problem which could be heavily impacted by behavioural science.

“Most people don’t actively want to litter, but do so because it is convenient, because they see other people doing it, and often because they don’t think about what they are doing,” said Professor Read.

He added: “We hope to use behavioural insights to change how people think about littering and, more importantly, how they behave.”

Last month edie reported on the 15th annual WRAP recycle week. Figures from WRAP found more than 30% of consumers were still unsure of what waste can be recycled. The survey also found only 52% of young people claim to recycle everything they can, far lower than 75% of over 55s.

CLUB estimates that 122 tonnes of cigarette butts alone are dropped around the UK daily, with 2.3 million pieces of litter dropped every day.

Matt Field


behaviour change | litter | WRAP


Waste & resource management
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