What unsustainable behavior needs to change:
A NBC study published in 2018 revealed that cigarette butts are a more detrimental form of pollution compared to plastic bags. Startling statistics emerged, indicating that cigarette butts have been the most commonly collected item on beaches worldwide for 32 consecutive years. Over that period, more than 60 million cigarette butts were collected, accounting for approximately one-third of all collected objects. Further studies have shown that a single cigarette butt can pollute anywhere from 500 to 1,000 litres of water.
People often discard cigarette butts due to a combination of convenience, habit, and a lack of awareness about the environmental impact. Many smokers just do not think about the environmental consequences leading to their careless disposal.
The Green Nudge:
In 2015, Hubbub ran a behavioural experiment to combat cigarette littering. Instead of struggling to find a disposal spot and potentially littering the street, individuals were engaged in a fun quiz through „Ballot Bins“ running on Villiers Street in London. These engaging bins posed buzzing questions like „What came first: Chicken or Egg?“ to encourage responsible disposal of cigarette butts which led to a 20% reduction in butt littering within a 6-week timeframe. Additionally, the magnetic letters on the bin could be rearranged to create new social polls, ensuring continued engagement even if the initial question loses its buzz.
In 2019, the experiment transitioned into a widespread practice in Greece. Initially, 5 Quiz bins were piloted in Athens city centre, collecting 30,000 cigarette butts within a year. The project expanded in 2020 to the greater Athens area, resulting in 250,000 collected butts. Over the past couple of years, the initiative has grown to encompass more than 50 Greek islands, with 700 Blue Quiz Bins featuring questions like „What is your favourite seaside?“ and „Flip flops with or without socks?“
The result: more that 1 million cigarette butts are estimated to be collected through the quiz bins per year.
According to Hubbub, Ballot Bins work because : “We like being asked questions – it awakens the brain and is much more engaging than being instructed.”
Are you aware of any other Green nudge that helps to keep the environment clean? Feel free to comment or get in touch: email@example.com
From Stefanos Stasinopoulos who is a Researcher in Nudge Unit Greece and Lifecycle Behaviour executive in Kaizen Gaming. His interests focus on understanding people and designing attractive nudges that offer healthier and optimised experiences. Stefanos also explores cases of abuse and biases around authority in the workplace, for which he has developed a respective series of presentations to raise awareness.