Clean Up Britain was started by a small group of professionals who united based on a shared passion for looking after our environment, and a particular concern about the increasing problem of litter.
We’ve been lobbying hard for a national litter campaign and are members of the National Litter Strategy Advisory Group.
In 2018, we’re broadening our horizons to inspire and enable communities and businesses better address environmental issues which are fast becoming extremely hot topics – single-use plastics, reuse and recycling.
Clean Up Britain’s Campaign Chairman. Kenny also owns Logan Sports Marketing, one of the fastest growing agencies in the UK, specialising in sponsorship consultancy, events, hospitality and rights management.
Founder, Clean Up Britain. Extensive experience in campaigning, corporate communications, CSR, media management & public affairs. Has worked with the England cricket team, De Beers, the Conservative Party, Richard Branson and HRH Princess Haya of Jordan.
Managing Director, System 1 Agency. Core member of the CLUB management team since day one. Extensive global brand strategy and communications expertise. Rod is former Director of Marketing for Nike, Adidas and Unilever, and one of Britain’s leading marketeers.
Researcher, lecturer and consultant in the areas of behavioural science, strategy and marketing. Julia sits on our management team and is a global expert on behavioural psychology and litter.
Community Relations Manager for Clean Up Britain, Simon is responsible for building close working relationships within communities, and identifying opportunities to recruit potential partners and volunteers.
Highly distinguished and widely respected broadcaster and writer, Jeremy is Patron of Clean Up Britain. He sums up his strong views by saying “ours is a beautiful country and I just don’t understand why people would want to drop litter – it makes me angry and depressed”.
This year we’re ramping up our campaigning and work with communities.
We also recognise that businesses face increasing scrutiny to anticipate and react to the environmental impacts of operating.
It’s not only our environment that’s at stake. The media are, quite rightly, becoming increasingly vocal about companies not doing their fair share. It’s becoming imperative that businesses take action on environmental issues over which they have some control.
Photo copyright John Read
Clean Up Britain (with excellent research contributed by Peter Silverman of Clean Highways) have collaborated with Channel 4 News to bring this Special Report. Investigation into Highways England has revealed a private contract, £8 Billion of public money and a very littered M25…
Channel 4 News’ Chief Correspondent, Alex Thomson writes : “Instead of pristine stretches of road, Britain’s motorways are being treated as a rubbish dump with verges covered in piles of discarded trash.
Under the 1990 Environmental Protection Act, Highways England are supposed to make sure major roads are kept litter free. So why isn’t Connect Plus, the private firm which has the contract to keep motorways like the M25 spick and span, doing just that?”
Designing the ‘perfect’ portable ashtray. Why should it matter?
Globally, trillions of cigarette butts are thrown into our environment every day. Most cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate fibres. Cellulose acetate is a plastic that is slow to degrade. What’s more, cigarette filters leach harmful toxins into the environment.
We think a portable ashtray is one easy solution to ‘on the go’ cigarette litter in the UK. So why aren’t the majority of UK smokers using them?
Clean Up Britain, as part of a large scale public survey, has gathered data on how smokers would use a portable ashtray and the ‘optimum’ design to continue or encourage this use. Good design will increase the use of portable ashtrays and reduce cigarette litter.
Over 2019/20 we set out to comprehensively analyse a variety of portable ashtray designs with the help of the general public. As far as Clean Up Britain can establish (and we’ve looked extensively) there has never been a quantitative research survey carried out on the use and design of portable ashtrays in Britain.
To do this we set up a diverse range of Smokers’ Focus Groups to gather qualitative data on what they thought about various designs of ashtray. Participants even had a hand at designing what they felt was their ‘perfect’ portable ashtray. Our Focus Group research made it clear that many factors come into play to create a user friendly design. Some of our findings were quite surprising, such as the audible ‘click when closed’ valued by the majority of participants. Size and minimal/no smell were also considered important.
In our second phase of research we rolled out over 500 hundred portable ashtrays, free, for the general public to trial. A big thank you to local Warwickshire businesses and organisations that supported us with such an ambitious roll out! Once trialled, participants filled out a simple, anonymous survey to provide feedback on the design of portable ashtray they trialled.
Assessing the two pieces of research together (qualitative and quantitative), there are two very strong themes. Firstly, that a majority of smokers are open to the concept of using a portable ashtray (albeit in different circumstances). Secondly, there is very considerable room for design innovation and improvement on the style of portable ashtrays currently on the market.
With this study now concluded Clean Up Britain has produced a 72 page report ‘Portable Ashtrays in the UK – Report on the Quantitative Research, January 2020’
A few months ago we launched a ground-breaking behavioural change project in Leamington Spa .
During the campaign we want to learn about how to really change littering behaviour. At the same time we’re working on other related issues such as single-use plastic, disposable coffee cups and local businesses impact on the environment.
We started out with the launch of our shocking ‘Litter Kills’ campaign which highlights the upsetting impact of litter on wildlife and pets. We then cleaned thousands of bits of chewing gum off the high street. Following that we kicked off educational sessions (at both primary and secondary schools). Most recently we launched our Street Activist project pilot.
The Street Activist project answers the question ‘what can I do’ and aims to bring together individuals and groups who want to be part of positive change. The idea is to inspire and enable anyone who wants to do something about litter and the environment. We’ve built the Street Activist ‘Hub’ to help out with ideas, resources and details of local groups and events.
We’ve also joined forces with Plastic Free Leamington & Warwick and awarded our brand new Green Business Recognition to 25 town centre businesses. These cafes and restaurants have committed to managing litter outside their premises and are working hard to reduce their use of throwaway plastics and improve recycling. We’re working hard to bring more on board.
Leamington is a fascinating and surprisingly diverse town, bang in the middle of the country:
It’s going to take time, but we’re on the road to understanding what works – and what doesn’t – when it comes to addressing litter and waste in a single community. We’ll be there over a sustained period so we’ll really get under the skin of the issues.
To find out more about the project, take a look at the website at www.itsnowornever.org.uk.
The UK has a serious litter problem. Take a look around you – every village, town, city, beach and roadside is blighted with the lazy leftovers of our daily lives.
We’ve been wrestling hard with how to properly ignite the conversation about litter and the damage it does.
In particular, we need to get to young women and men, age 16-30, who don’t even think about litter. This age group, while outwardly professing a love of the planet, recycling and other green issues, over-indexes on littering compared to other age groups.
Its been ages since a national anti-litter campaign ran which changed littering behaviours, the topic of littering gets no airtime with this audience, and any wider efforts to prompt thinking and behaviour change has been largely ineffective.
Litter doesn’t really figure on their radar. Yet.
We had seen the RSPCA stats – they get 5000 calls a year about animals injured by litter. Instinctively, we knew that this must be the tip of the iceberg.
We also knew, from previous research, that talking about hurt and dead animals was one of the only ways to ignite the conversation about litter with our target audience.
And so we began looking hard at the impacts of litter on animals, and with help of the RSPCA, the British Veterinary Association and the pet charity, Blue Cross, we built the bigger, shocking picture. Our campaign ‘Litter Kills’ was born.
We know that the images are shocking – that’s the point. We need to give people a reason to react strongly to seeing others litter, and make those who do think twice. We have to shift attitudes and behaviour.
We’re supposedly a nation of pet and animal lovers. British households in total host 8.5m dogs and 8m cats. Millions of us care about wildlife and enjoy seeing wild animals where we live, work and play.
Yet our littering habit affects thousands and thousands of animals in a very bad, sometimes fatal, way.
The images we have used are real. In fact, there are countless more we could have chosen from.
If these aren’t enough to convince you, here are just a few real life case studies from our partners:
From Mark Bossley, Chief Veterinary Surgeon at Blue Cross:
”One 17 year old poodle was admitted with a bone from a discarded takeaway lodged in its oesophagus. It needed a general anaesthetic and an endoscopy to remove it. If the owner hadn’t seen it happen and brought the dog straight to us then we might not have been able to save it”
“Chewing gum and other food products containing sweeteners or mouldy food is toxic to pets. There has been a recent case of a dog admitted after eating chewing gum and being poisoned.”
John Fishwick, President, British Veterinary Association, said:
“Littering can be a definite problem for pets, and vets frequently see its unfortunate impact on animals in the form of cuts to paw pads from broken glass or metal cans and illness from scavenging discarded food, included cooked bones. Pets can also fall sick from eating food wrappers or other packaging that has been carelessly thrown away.”
And from the RSPCA:
“A recent case involved a duck with a plastic ring trapped in his bill and around the back of his head. It must have been extremely painful. Unfortunately we had to put it to sleep at the scene to prevent further suffering.
It’s really shocking and sad to see wildlife suffer in this way, when it could have been easily preventable. This is why we always ask people to please dispose of their rubbish responsibly.”
So there can be no doubt.
It’s time to act.
Litter Kills has been launched as part of our groundbreaking ‘Now or Never’ campaign which has just kicked off in Leamington Spa.
We’ve partnered with the Local Government Association (LGA) to table a cross party motion in Parliament, along with a petition asking government to hold gum producers accountable for the huge costs of cleaning chewing gum off streets across our country.
Our local councils currently stump up a total of £60 million a year removing an estimated two million pieces of gum from pavements – money which is desperately needed elsewhere. We’d much rather see it spent on pressing issues such as social care and housing, homelessness and other vital, underfunded community services.
Chewing Gum never biodegrades. It’s hard to find out exactly what’s in most gum bases as the recipes tend to be closely guarded secrets, though most sources mention polymers, the same type of material used to make plastics and rubbers. This goes some way to explaining why this grim, sticky source of pollution needs specialist equipment, and costs a fortune, to remove.
Read the full Daily Telegraph article here.
To sign the petition click here.
*We’re interested to learn more about how synthetic gum bases are made – could they be classed as a single-use plastic? If you can help us understand more please get in touch via the Contact Us form. Thank you!
We’ve been doing lots of thinking about single-use plastic lately. It’s always been a big part of the litter problem – in fact, the UK’s most littered item – cigarette butts – contain thousands of little particles of plastic.
There are more worrying facts out there, many of which you might have read. Here’s a few of the most attention-grabbing:
So the team at Clean Up Britain have been looking at simple ways we can all get started on reducing single-use plastic in our day-to-day lives. Here are the things we’re doing so far:
In some cases we’ve found we’re saving money in the longer term (discounts on coffees, not buying bottles water, not paying for plastic bags at the supermarket) and it’s much easier than we’d thought to make positive and satisfying changes. Why not give some of the ideas above a go yourself?
Stats sources – The Telegraph, Surfers Against Sewage
We’ve designed this educational pack with the help of school kids and a cubs pack, so teachers and community group leaders can deliver a fun and engaging session on the environmental impacts of litter and waste very easily and with little prep.
The contents have been successfully tried and tested with KS2 (ages 8-11) and help them really understand:
The resources can easily be delivered in an hour. If you want to, sessions can be made longer by spending more time discussing the facts, designing anti-litter posters or getting out and doing a litter pick.
The resources also include a pledge certificate and some suggestions for the promises kids can make having completed the learning. We’ve given some ideas such as ‘I promise never to drop litter’, ‘I won’t release helium balloons’ or ‘I’ll buy fewer drinks in plastic bottles’. We encourage kids to make these pledges with support of their family to get the discussion going at home too.
We’re always keen to hear your feedback and have now started work on resources for use with older age groups. Watch this space.
Download the leader notes and resources pack using the links below:
You may have seen that we’ve recently commented on the Highways England Funnel Bin project in the press.
We’ve had some passionate feedback – both supporting and challenging our comments. Thank you to everyone who has fed back – we appreciate the time you’ve taken to do so.
We thought we’d write about the bigger picture. It’s almost impossible to present important detail in a few minutes of radio show or a TV clip which has been thoroughly edited!
At Clean Up Britain we completely agree that more bins are generally a good thing when the right type of bins are put in the right places and emptied often enough so they don’t overflow.
That said, we’ve been up to our eyeballs in litter for a few years now and, unsurprisingly, it’s a complex topic for which the solutions are not straightforward.
Through our work and lobbying we’ve learnt that to properly address our growing litter problem a multi-pronged, long-term approach is needed. A combination of campaigning and communications, education, innovation, consistent enforcement and the right bins in the right places.
In addition, and crucially, we have to challenge the ‘social norm’ that it’s ok to litter. There’s loads of research on this particular topic. Warwick Business School did a nice summary:
‘One way social proof manifests itself is through observing the results of past behaviour. If there is a lot of litter on the ground it means that littering is a normal and accepted behaviour. Therefore, environments that are clean will nudge people to use bins, whereas environments that are unclean will nudge them to litter more’*
Our friend Peter Silverman of Clean Highways has been campaigning tirelessly to motivate Highways England who he asserts fail to comply with their statutory duty to keep their land clear of litter and refuse. Do have a look at his website to see the extent of his challenge and his work.
We also had a couple of practical concerns – so many people who buy food from services eat in transit, so extra bins aren’t necessarily capturing the rubbish that ultimately ends up on verges away from rest stops. Also, some of us are a pretty bad aim – which potentially means a litter problem in itself is created as people miss and the wind does its job.
Of course we support all positive action to address litter and agree that the problem lies largely with the person who drops it. However, a balance needs to be struck in public discussion on the topic and the bigger picture acknowledged. What we really need is long term plans, investment and commitment to address the fact that motorway verges the length and breadth of Britain are strewn with litter.
We promise to keep campaigning and lobbying for a holistic approach to address our litter problem. We’re a member of the government’s Litter Advisory Group and continue to meet with civil servants, parliamentarians and Ministers in an effort to help drive long-term change.
If you’re interested you can read the Litter Strategy for England here.
We’ve also embarked on a further program of work to practically address some of the needs we see as priority, which we hope to be able to go public on early next year. As we progress feel free to hold us to account, ask us questions, give us challenges. We will always listen and respond.
You can also help:
Check back on the website where we will keep our news updated and publish more details of how our supporters can help as time goes on.
Many thanks, the team at Clean Up Britain.
*Dur & Vollaard, 2013; Finnie, 1973; Geller, Witmer, & Tuso, 1977; Krauss, Freedman, & Whitcup, 1978; Reiter & Samfuel, 1980
We’re really pleased to be backing another positive step from Starbucks as it further commits to reducing impact on the environment.
Starbucks has announced that they are to partner with Pentatonic in an innovative design partnership to create furniture, tiles and textiles out of store waste.
Pentatonic is a newly launched furniture company whose products are made using post-consumer waste such as plastic bottles, plastic cups and paper straws. As part of Starbucks plan to decrease its environmental footprint, this collaboration focuses on store design and involves a new sustainable take on the iconic ‘Bean Chair’, currently found in stores nationwide. The partnership is just one of several environmental design projects to be unveiled this September by Pentatonic in its pop-up store during the London Design Festival.
Jaime Hall, Co-Founder of Pentatonic said:
“Partnering with Starbucks to build furniture and materials out of their own waste is a major demonstration of how scale can be a force for good. By taking the iconic Bean Chair design and re-engineering it using trash, it further illustrates the unlimited application possibilities of post-consumer waste. With Pentatonic’s technology and Starbucks commitment to a greener future, the potential impact of our partnership is truly significant for the planet.”
To launch the partnership, Pentatonic and Starbucks have also collaborated on a pop-up bar constructed entirely from its own waste materials. The bar will reside within Pentatonic’s Shoreditch pop-up and will be open from the 15 September to 12 October serving Nitro Cold Brew and Chemex brewed coffee. Excitingly all proceeds will be donated to Clean up Britain to enable us to continue our campaigning and embark on some fantastic new projects. You can visit the project at The Old Synagogue, 2 Chance Street (entrance on Whitby Street) London E1 6JT.
September 15-October 12, 12.00-19.00 daily
We wanted to find a different to bring to life the negative impacts litter can have – something attention-grabbing, colourful and really informative. Something we hope you will want to look at, share and discuss.
So here it is! Designed by the superb illustrator Dan The Scribbler we’re finding it particularly useful in schools, the bigger the print out the better!
Please feel free to download (using the link below), print and share.
We’re proud to officially support Starbucks who will be giving away 18,500 reusable cups on Earth Day – 22nd April 2017.
As our supporters will know, we strongly believe in long-term sustainable change. Every day millions of paper cups are used for just minutes before going straight to landfill or becoming litter. They’re manufactured from virgin paper pulp and less than 1% of the estimated 2.5 billion we get through every year are currently recycled.
The reusable cup giveaway is launched in the same week as a new awareness message on cup sleeves ‘Reuse to Reduce’ and accompanies the long-standing 25p discount offered to customers using a reusable cup – an incentive Starbucks has had in place for over a decade.
Testing different approaches to encourage and enable people to use reusable cups is an extremely positive step and we are proud to support efforts to promote reusable cups, and understand what prompts people to make the switch.
It won’t be easy – and will take time – but it’s great to see one of the world’s biggest coffee companies seeking solutions to this challenge.
Simon Redfern, vice president communications for Starbucks Europe, Middle East and Africa said;
“With today’s giveaway we are inviting our customers to try to create a new cup habit and help reduce our impact on the environment. We are continuing our efforts with industry partners to find a sustainable and safe long term solution.”
The reusable cups will be given away in participating stores across Great Britain. To find your nearest store in England, Scotland and Wales please visit: https://www.starbucks.co.uk/store-locator – available whilst stocks last.
‘Westminster . . . we have a problem.” I’m not referring to Brexit negotiations or the pressures on the NHS. It is something seemingly much more mundane, but corrosive to communities all over the country: the deluge of litter and fly-tipping.
When you’re walking or driving this week take extra notice of your surroundings — roadside verges, pavements, parks, high streets. Clean Up Britain’s theory is that people have become so used to seeinglitter and waste that they are now inured to it.
However, councils spend almost £1 billion a year cleaning it up — an appalling waste of taxpayers’ money that could be far better spent on social services, playgrounds and the like.
Today, for the first time, the government has published a national litter strategy. It doesn’t go far enough. Fines for drivers and passengers who throw litter out of vehicles should be at least £200 — the same amount that has recently been introduced for drivers caught using their mobile phones.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble, the “litter minister”, needs to have the courage to do much more to tackle the problem. If he does he will be applauded by the vast majority of citizens who are sick of having their local communities environmentally desecrated. If not, he will deserve contempt.
The problem was well summed-up by Sean Lawson, director of environmental services at Rugby borough council, when giving evidence in parliament: “We often do not associate [litter] widely enough in terms of the impact it has on social cohesion and the economic vitality of areas. We think ‘It’s just litter’. We really do need to shift how we think about litter.” He’s absolutely right.
Apart from making our green and pleasant land a permanent eyesore, litter costs us a fortune to clean up, injures and kills animals that ingest it and discourages investment and tourism. There is a growing body of evidence that it causes depression.
The only sustainable answer to the problem is long-term behavioural change. Much like drink-driving, we need to make littering socially unacceptable. If the government’s promise to leave this land in a better environmental state than it inherited is to mean anything then its national litter strategy cannot turn out to be a damp squib.
Read the original article here.
We’re extremely pleased that the government’s first National Litter Strategy has been published.
Having been working on the National Litter Advisory Group we’re confident that the strategy will create a strong platform from which positive cultural changes can be made.
The strategy states:
‘Our ambition is to be the first generation to leave the natural environment of England in a better state than it found it. We are clear that we must act now to clean up the country and change our culture so that it is no longer acceptable to drop litter.’
There’s a lot to do – pleasingly the strategy is pretty comprehensive. You can read it here.
We’re particularly pleased that, amongst other commitments, the strategy promises to:
– Deliver a world class national anti‐littering campaign
– Review the case for increasing the fixed penalties for littering (and related offences)
– Regulate to allow English councils to fine the keeper of a vehicle from which litter is thrown
– Facilitate strong and consistent anti‐litter education
– Empower local communities to channel their passion for their local environment into positive action
– Recognise and reward the contribution of volunteers to tackling litter
– Support the packaging industry in improving product and packaging design to deter littering
– Support national clear‐up days
And so the important first step is taken. We’re determined that the strategy will set the framework for fundamental change – change which will hugely benefit our communities, environment and wildlife and save us taxpayers money which will be better spent where really needed.
Watch this space for our updates as the work really begins.
In the meantime, if you want to take action yourself, see our blog post ‘How you can help’.
Driving change is only something we can do with the help and support of people like you. Any action you take to raise awareness and help tackle the issue is valuable. Who knows, you might even become a fully obsessed litter activist!
Below we’ve listed some ways you can help and get involved. Drop us a line and let us know how you get on – we’d love to hear from you.
Simply pick up a bit of litter every day*
When people see you doing it, stand proud and keep going. What you’re doing is helping to create a new social norm. Research shows that if people see others picking up litter they are less likely to drop it themselves (and may even start picking it up).
Make a stand on social media
Like us on Facebook and share posts which you feel strongly about.
Follow and share on Twitter: @cleanupbritain
Download Littergram and help us build a litter map of Britain. If you can, post to social media to drive even more awareness of the problem.
Talk about the issue with your friends, family, local school or community group
Raising awareness is a great way to start influencing change. Check out our hideous litter stats blog post which should give you plenty to discuss……!
Join or start a local litter pick
There’s information and support at http://www.litteraction.org.uk where you’ll find everything you need to know and connect with existing groups in your area.
Here you can also quickly learn about how to use a Litter Abatement Order to force local litter hotspots to be addressed. Really powerful stuff.
Start a dialogue with the council
If litter starts to build up things will only get worse. It’s well known that clean, well loved spaces are more likely to stay that way. The reverse is also true. Encouraging your local council to maintain clean spaces helps get the battle won. Littergram can help you with this! Don’t give up!
And if you’re really bonkers ask us about www.cleanuphitchin.co.uk – a community project run by a member of the Clean Up Britain team….
Finally, keep checking back on the Clean Up Britain website as we’re currently developing some fun, easy-to-deliver content for use in schools.
*It goes without saying that your health and safety is top priority so be careful of anything sharp, particularly dirty or otherwise grim which might pose a hazard to your health.
Litter facts and stats – here’s some of the most insightful and depressing we’ve come across. Feel free to share!
In the UK, levels of litter have increased 500% in the last 50 years (1).
It costs the UK £1bn to clear litter EVERY YEAR (2). Money which could be spent on things to really benefit society. Think of the good it could do in our struggling NHS…
A poor-quality local environment can also have wider impacts on public health, including mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. On the flip side, living near good quality, accessible green space can improve mental and physical health (3).
Wildlife suffers the consequences, as do our pets. The RSPCA receive over 7,000 phone calls a year about animals who have eaten or been injured by litter (4). They think that the real number is much higher as most owners go straight to vets and many wild animals who suffer aren’t found.
Plastics, polystyrene cups and discarded packaging are choking river habitats but tend to be hidden at the bottom of the water so go unnoticed. Decomposing plastic can release toxic chemicals which are then passed through the food chain.
Rivers and storm drains carry inland litter out to sea. There are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean and 2,500 items of rubbish for every kilometre on our beaches (5).
An estimated eight million tonnes of plastic waste is added to the oceans every year and most plastic never biodegrades. It breaks down into smaller pieces known as micro-plastics. Large pieces can trap animals and smaller pieces are often eaten (6).
Litter thrown from cars causes accidents when people swerve to miss something flying towards their car, run over or hit something in the road. It’s estimated that the cost of accidents caused by litter in the UK is in the region of £8m (7).
Picking litter from the side of the road is a really dangerous job – people have been killed doing it. No-one would have to take the risk if other’s simply took their rubbish home. Some councils deem it too dangerous to clear verges on certain roads so it’s just left to build up.
Sources: 1 & 2: Local Government Association. 3: Ellway et al, 2009. 4: RSPCA. 5: Surfers Against Sewage. 6: University of California. 7: Highways England.
Most of us all have a load of old stuff we need to get rid of and it’s not always easy to get to the tip. Paying someone else to take it away for you is often a nice solution, especially when you lead a busy life or don’t have a huge car boot…
However, as fly tipping becomes an increasing problem it’s often down to us regular folks who, unwittingly, pay rogue traders to ‘dispose’ of our waste.
It’s simple to take these idiots out of the picture – a quick check to see if they have a waste carrier permit is all it takes. Doubly important as, by law, you are responsible for getting your waste disposed of legally and can face a huge fine if you don’t.
IT’S REALLY EASY TO CHECK – you can either:
Call the Environment Agency and ask – 03708 506 506 (cost is the same as a call to a landline number and if you have inclusive minutes with your phone it’s free to call).
Or check on-line here.
You’ll need the person or business name or registration number – if they are legitimate they should be very happy to give you both.
The costs of litter are significant and varied. The annual cost of picking up litter across the UK is close to £1 billion , eighty-one percent of British people say that seeing litter on the streets makes them frustrated and angry and spending time in places that appear uncared for may result in damage to community spirit .
The huge environmental impact is hard to truly quantify. We do know that the RSPCA receives over 7000 calls a year about wildlife ingesting and being injured by litter and a recent analysis estimated that, by 2050, plastic will outweigh fish in our oceans . Plastic litter on beaches has increased 140% since 1994 and microplastic particles are now found inside filter feeding animals and amongst sand grains on our beaches.
It’s a sad and worsening picture, and with litter levels up 500% in the last 50 years a new approach needs to be taken.
Behavioural science is being used in all sorts of areas of public life and Professor Daniel Read, of the Behavioural Science Group at WBS, believes it can be used to help the country’s litter problem.
Professor Read said: “Littering is a socially undesirable behaviour that is highly amenable to being managed using methods from 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.
“In partnership with Clean Up Britain we hope to use behavioural insights to change how people think about littering and, more importantly, how they behave.”
’Using behavioural insights to reduce littering in the UK’ written by Julia Kolodko and Umar Taj, takes a look at potential nudges and interventions to change the behaviour and attitudes of litterers in the UK. You can download it here.
This month our Patron Jeremy Paxman wrote a passionate piece which featured in the Daily Mail, calling for the government to back a plastic bottle deposit return scheme.
Deposit return schemes already exist in many other counties and see customers pay a small cash deposit as part of the price of a drink in a plastic bottle. They get the money back when they return the item to a collection point.
There are strong arguments for supporting a UK deposit return scheme, not least the potential positive impacts on litter, landfill and recycling rates.
The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) however have said a policy is “unlikely”, although “not off the table”.
Up until this week a major part part of the challenge was the position of industry and drinks manufacturers who will bear significant cost should a scheme be introduced. However Coca-Cola have now publicly committed to exploring the introduction of a deposit return scheme:
“Our sustainable packaging review is ongoing, but it’s already clear from our conversations with experts that the time is right to trial new interventions such as a well-designed deposit return scheme for drinks containers, starting in Scotland where conversations are underway.
“We’ve also been talking to and listening to our consumers and know two thirds (63%) of them support the introduction of a deposit return system in the UK, and half (51%) say they’d be more likely to recycle as a result. From our experience elsewhere in Europe, we know that deposit schemes can work if they are developed as part of an overall strategy on the circular economy, in collaboration with all industry stakeholders. We are open to exploring any well-thought-through initiative that has the potential to increase recycling and reduce litter.’
We will be keeping close to developments and post updates as progress is made.
Jeremy spoke at the Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA) Environment Seminar, on behalf of Clean Up Britain and called on major brands to change the way the public interacts with waste packaging.
“Litter is the sort of advertising that nobody wants,” Jeremy said. “If the sides of the roads are littered with rubbish baring your logo, then you have got a problem.
“What we need to do most of all is to change the way people behave. Businesses have to make dumping litter socially unacceptable in the same way that drink driving now is. It is increasingly clear that the only way for us to win the war on litter is for all of us to come together in a far more integrated way.
“We need a coordinated, collaborative initiative involving environment boards and companies, trade unions and the private sector. I don’t think the Government will help, they’ve already failed us.”
Jeremy noted that the amount of litter in the UK had increased by around 500% over the past 50 years, and last year alone, local authorities across the UK spent more than £1bn on removing litter from our streets.
He called on the private sector to fund behavioural change campaigns that will not only reduce public littering, but “will get Government to jump on the bandwagon of a successful collaborative initiative”.
“Keep Scotland Beautiful has worked with Clean Up Britain on a number of anti-litter initiatives in recent years and a productive working partnership has been established. This partnership allows for information exchange, research and strategy development in relation to litter prevention, and has been very positive. We are keen to continue working together through 2017 and beyond.”
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
We are thrilled to partner with Littergram who harness the power of smart phones and social media to help clean up Britain. Download their brilliant app and join a community of like-minded people taking action on our growing litter problem.
LitterGram works closely with councils to help them address the issues app users highlight. Their cutting edge technology is available for free to all 433 councils across the country.
We are proud to have joined forces with Warwick Business School, which has the biggest Behavioural Science Group in Europe, to use nudge theory to help address environmental issues.
Based on theories from behavioural science, nudges have been used to solve a range of issues from persuading more people to pay their taxes on time to encouraging households have their lofts insulated.
Read our report ‘Using behavioural insights to reduce littering in the UK’
"The trash and litter of nature disappears into the ground with the passing of each year, but man’s litter has more permanence."
- John Steinbeck
"Each and every one of us can make changes in the way we live our lives and become part of the solution."
- Al Gore
"We can continue to foul the nest we all share. Or we can decide to do something about it."
- Jeremy Paxman
"I’m ashamed, embarrassed and angry about the amount of litter in Britain. Bluntly, our country is a filthy disgrace. Could it be different? Of course it could."
- Clive Betts MP
"Britain has the worst litter problem in the developed world. It’s bad for the spirit to walk through filth."
- David Sedaris