Peer-Power revealed as crucial factor in changing litter behaviour in under 25’s
Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) has today released the findings from a joint research partnership with the national anti-litter charity Keep Britain Tidy and its Centre for Social Innovation, investigating the littering behaviour of young adults.
The joint initiative sought to develop a better understanding of why people litter soft drinks packaging, in order to inform intervention and prevention strategies to more effectively combat the wider issue of litter. Having identified young adults between the ages of 16 and 25 as those most likely to litter soft drinks, researchers combined behavioural observations in the field with focus group interviews to engage with this group.
In examining why and how 16 to 25 year olds litter, the report entitled ‘Soft drinks littering: Understanding and influencing young adult litterers’ uncovered four key factors which are most likely to influence this demographic, with some surprising perceptions emerging about what constitutes litter in the minds of young people. Key findings included:
Personal Influences: perceptions and values can dictate litter decisions
Attitudes: Under 25s were found to have differing definitions of littering itself. Certain situations, such as putting cigarettes down the drain or leaving an item on a wall or on a bench, rather than the ground, for example, were not seen as littering by many.
Solutions to explore: Educating and raising awareness via targeted, short-term litter campaigns can positively impact this group by encouraging and attributing greater value towards caring for the environment.
Objects influences: the nature of packaging can alter behaviour
Attitudes: The design and type of object or packaging was found to play a crucial role in influencing littering behaviours. Respondents perceived bottles to be less acceptable to litter, compared to cans, as they are re-sealable and can be carried to consume and dispose of later. Glass bottles were seen as unacceptable to litter because of the danger the material could pose to other people.
Solutions to explore: There is potential to assess the way in which packaging solutions are developed across the sector in a way that facilitates greater reuse, and to encourage the purchase of reusable formats above other options amongst those most likely to litter.
Social influences: the risk and reward of judgment by others can sway behaviour
Attitudes: It was found 16-25 years old would almost never consider littering on a first date, in front of parents or a younger sibling for fear they would be frowned upon or ‘told off’. In other circumstances, despite knowing it was wrong, participants admitted they would regularly litter when around groups of friends.
Solutions to explore: Positive peer pressure to shift perceived social norms about littering being acceptable, or even “cool”, was found to be impactful in changing behaviour. Introducing ‘pledge making’ into these types of campaigns has already seen success in related areas such as recycling.
Environmental influences: location matters – litter breeds litter
Attitudes: Littering close to home was deemed unacceptable, compared to in a town centre, where the environment was perceived to be dirtier and respondents felt more anonymous. Similarly, it was considered acceptable to litter at festivals, cinemas, on the tube and in other places believed to be cleaned regularly, or where there are no bins available.
Solutions to explore: Redesigning or improving bin placement to make recycling or rubbish disposal more convenient was found to likely have strong levels of effectiveness. For example, placing bins in areas of high footfall, or near fast food and drink outlets.
As part of its continuing sustainability agenda, ‘Deliver for today, Inspire for tomorrow’, CCE has continued to actively promote and invest in anti-litter campaigns for some time. Alongside this report, other key activity centred around litter behaviour change from CCE includes:
Supporting peer-to-peer education in litter via the Real Business Challenge 2015/16: For its annual enterprise competition, CCE has this year teamed up with a number of industry groups including Keep Wales Tidy, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Hubbub and Clean Up Britain to task secondary school students across Great Britain to develop anti-litter campaigns for their local areas. As part of the Challenge, students designed anti-litter posters, and winning team posters will be printed and displayed in high profile locations nearby each school.
Investment in Hubbub’s Neat Streets campaign: Continuing its support for the litter reform initiative, CCE has this year pledged to invest in charity group Hubbub to help engage people in fun and creative ways whilst encouraging them not to litter. Recent initiatives from the group have included interactive bins and gamifying the act of throwing away litter.
Supporting Keep Scotland Beautiful through the development of a national network of local champions for the environment: The network supports those people who are taking everyday actions to improve their environment and quality of life.
As a founding signatory to Keep Britain Tidy’s Litter Prevention Commitment, pledging to further embed good litter prevention practice in CCE’s core business and support the development of further innovation and research.
Supporting the work of Clean Up Britain, the organisation with the single objective of changing the behaviour of the people who admit to dropping litter in Britain.
Bev Burnham, Senior Manager, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, Coca-Cola Enterprises GB, said: “No-one likes litter, but still it is an issue that continues to remain. At CCE, we are dedicated to minimising the environmental impact of our products. It forms a key part of our ongoing sustainability agenda, from the way our products are manufactured and distributed, to how they are then disposed of by consumers. As a business we have invested in a number of different initiatives and are proud to support organisations to promote anti-litter messaging and initiatives, investing in creative initiatives and in ensuring litter remains on the agenda at a governmental level.
“However, the issue of litter is something in which we all have a role to play if we are to address the related social and environmental challenges. While we at CCE can leverage our experience and expertise to educate and inspire consumers to recycle more often, we don’t have all the answers. That’s why we have collaborated with Keep Britain Tidy on this report, and we work with other environmental groups, to help generate new insights to inspire and encourage a real step change in GB litter habits.”
Keep Britain Tidy’s chief executive Allison Ogden-Newton said: “Understanding why and when people litter is key to developing cost-effective solutions that will make the difference we all want to see, reducing littering across the country.
“Keep Britain Tidy’s Centre for Social Innovation is focussed on creating and testing solutions that will do just this and initiatives created by the Centre have already made a demonstrable difference in communities up and down the country.”