Litter Counts

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Happy New Year!

And welcome to a new project for 2018: Litter Counts. Since my husband and I started cleaning up litter in Chippenham back in 2014, we have also  done a count of the recycling that we find. This started out rather basic, with just a tally of the number of glass bottles, plastic bottles, and aluminium cans we found, but has grown to include the number of each brand we can identify (quite a few plastic bottles easily lose their labels and get tallied as unknown).

Although big brands often get a lot of flak for the litter that is found within our communities, companies are not responsible for their customers’ behaviour. However, I do feel far more could be done to directly address the problem. Such companies know who their customers are, their demographics, and the different messages that are likely to reach different segments of their audience. They have large marketing budgets to try to convince said audience members to purchase their products. Why couldn’t a small percentage of that budget go towards addressing the environmental impact and how to mitigate it?

In short, if brands can encourage customers to buy, they can also encourage them to use a bin.

For example, imagine if these big brands agreed on an anti-litter message or similar format (“Love Lucozade. Hate litter.”, “Love Coke. Hate litter.”, “Love McDonald’s. Hate litter” … you get the picture) and used it in their advertising and publicity. What would happen if just 5-10% of the ads that constantly bombard us dealt with the proper disposal of rubbish, using the latest research on behaviour change and social marketing?

It’s about looking beyond the Tidy Man hieroglyph or projects that are preaching to the already converted. It’s about targeting those who 1) use the product and 2) are in the demographic most likely to litter.  It’s about sending a signal to everyone that littering is not tolerated.

Why do companies refuse to get on the front foot and lead? What do they fear? Is it that they think explicitly connecting their brand name with litter will cause them to sell fewer products? From my perspective, it seems like a win-win proposition: they are able to control the narrative and gain positive publicity.

The cliché of “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you always got” is a cliché for a reason: there is a kernel of truth in it.  The UK cannot keep its head in the sand over litter. Blue Planet 2 helped bring the problem of plastic pollution to the masses, but all waste needs to be addressed. From the litter in our streets to the over-packaging of our products (and the UK’s poor recycling rates), we cannot afford to trash our planet in the hopes that science and technology will find us a way out. Instead, we—and the companies that produce these products—must be willing to step forward and make a difference.

So over the next year, Litter Counts will be highlighting some of the most littered brands we find in Chippenham. We ask that readers keep an eye out for them when they’re out and about, and share their count with us on Facebook or Twitter (bonus points if you can bin or recycle the item in the process!). Use a Brand Bingo card to record your sightings, or feel free to take a guess at how many of a particular brand we found in Chippenham in 2017. I’ll be sharing the total count the following week, so swing by to see what our Community Clean Ups have turned up over the past year … and consider getting involved in our 2018 events:

  • 3rd March: Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean at Monkton Park, 10am-noon
  • 12th May: Donkey Field, 10am-noon
  • 7th July: Sign up in the sidebar (or drop me a line) to get added to the mailing list to find out more about this unofficial clean up.
  • 15th September: Monkton Park, 10am-noon
  • 10th November: Donkey Field, 10am-noon

Without further ado, here is the first brand to look out for …

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