Nudging litter into the bin

Shropshire Council’s environmental maintenance team will be out on the streets of Shrewsbury today Wednesday (12 June 2013) to encourage people to have pride in the place in which they live and keep Shrewsbury tidy.  We have a beautiful town, but we all need to make an effort to help keep it that way.

Also on the day, we're trying an innovative approach which applies a bit of nudge theory to encourage people to use litter bins.  We're simply spraying green footprints onto the street with the steps guiding a path to the nearest litter bin.

We've borrowed this idea from Copenhagen in Denmark, where research found that this can be an effective way to reduce littering.  Boffins at Roskilde University did a study in 2011 where they handed out chocolates and then counted the number of wrappers on the street.  The areas with the green footprints that led to the bins had a startling 46% decrease in wrappers ending up on the streets!

The idea is not just about simply guiding people to the bin, but its about the roles of social norms, and making the right choice the easy choice.  In this way citizens through free will choose to make decisions which we want them to - in this case simply be responsible with their waste and using a litter bin.

Its all part of a range of initiatives we are rolling out as part of the ‘Love Where you Live’ campaign which aims to prevent litter, fly-tipping and dog fouling in Shrewsbury.  So look out where you live, if this proves effective, some green footprints might soon be coming to a street near you too.


James Thompson James Thompson

Waste Prevention Officer, Waste Management, Shropshire Council

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Has the simple idea of sticking to lamp posts and other upright street furniture simple stickers indicating the distance and direction to the nearest bin ever been considered? This would raise awareness the need to dispose of rubbish responsibly and tell the person for how much longer they will need to carry that bottle, can or crisp packet.

It seems most ironic that the sign imploring the use of the bin is most often found on the bin rather than any distance from it. If the person's next to a bin and needs the help of a sign to tell them to use it they are probably beyond persuasion!

Recently undertook this exercise for a Masters dissertation across a number of sites in Wales with differing results.
Would be very interested to discuss with someone your approach, results and future plans

That sounds like a good idea Ceri. Please get in touch via the e-mail address on our website.