Westminster tackles cigarette & gum litter with innovative behaviour change campaign

Giant cigarettes, voting ashtrays and music-playing poles have seen the amounts of gum and cigarette butts left on the streets of Westminster fall rapidly.

The campaign has seen a series of interactive installations and exhibitions in Villiers Street to encourage people not to litter

The campaign has seen a series of interactive installations and exhibitions in Villiers Street to encourage people not to litter

A campaign called 'Neat Streets', launched in May, has seen Westminster City Council, Veolia, and environmental charity Hubbub partner to trial "some of the most innovative schemes from around the world" along the heavily-pedestrianised Villiers Street. 

The organisation's have together saught to reduce the growing problem caused by cigarettes and chewing gum - the two items that are now responsible for 78% of all observed litter.

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

Butts Out

Veolia’s general manager for central London Scott Edgell 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.”

The campaign is continuing to take place in Villiers Street; to trial new ways to encourage people not to litter. Schemes include:

  • 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 which are answered by putting the cigarette butt in the right compartment of the ashtray
  • The 'Butts Out' campaign where local pubs are stocking quirky portable ashtrays for smokers to use on the go
  • Giant cigarettes that are installed in piles around the street to raise awareness of the City of London’s ‘No Small Problem’ campaign

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

Billion-pound problem

It’s not just cigarette butts that aren’t being properly disposed of. As edie reported last month, a growing number of consumers don’t know how to recycle e-cigarettes, so large proportions are ending up in landfill. According to YouGov, there are now more than 2.1 million 'vapers' in the UK, with the majority of disposed e-cigarettes in landfill taking centuries to break down; potentially causing a significant slowdown in national waste management figures.

Last month, business and campaign groups backed a new Litter Manifesto from Hubbub which called on the UK Government to tackle the UK's £1bn litter problem. A letter, signed by the likes of McDonald’s and chewing gum manufacturer Wrigley featured in the guardian, calling on the Tories to create a national strategy to clean up Britain's litter.

Matt Mace


| litter | veolia | waste management


Waste & resource management | CSR & ethics
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