What unsustainable behavior needs to change:
Lebanon faces significant challenges in managing plastic waste due to a high rate of plastic consumption and inadequate waste management infrastructure. Around 11% to 13% of the Municipal Solid Waste generated in Lebanon consists of plastics. Although some of it is recycled, most is either landfilled or openly dumped and incinerated.
Despite the harmful effects of plastic on the environment, most restaurants continue to provide plastic cutlery with their delivery orders by default, even when customers may not necessarily need or want it. Concurrently, customers do not usually care to ask for the exclusion of cutlery. As such, unutilised plastic cutlery is discarded, resulting in unnecessary (yet avoidable) environmental costs.
There are several biases and bottlenecks that prevent customers from opting-out of receiving plastic cutlery, even when they do not need it. Most customers are susceptible to the status-quo bias (the tendency to stick with the current state of affairs, i.e., the default inclusion of plastic cutlery), or social norms bias (the tendency to follow what others are doing), or to cognitive overload (although they care about the environment, it may not occur to them to request the exclusion of cutlery from their meals because they are focused on other tasks).
The Green Nudge:
Nudge Lebanon implemented a small-scale pre-post intervention at the call-centre of a local restaurant to examine the impact of using a verbal prompt to change the status-quo. The prompt was designed to provide an active choice, in case customers wished to opt-out of receiving plastic cutlery. Moreover, the prompt was framed to highlight the restaurant’s efforts in preserving the environment, thereby priming customers to act in an environmentally responsible way.
The prompt was delivered in Arabic and read as follows: “In order to preserve the environment, we are encouraging our customers to reduce the use of plastic, which is why we would like to ask you if you wish to have plastic cutlery with your order.” The call centre staff were instructed to deliver the prompt before each order was concluded. A monitoring system was put into place to ensure that data was consistently and accurately recorded, and that customers who opted-out of having plastic cutlery did not receive it.
The result: a nearly 78% decrease in the demand for plastic cutlery with delivery orders compared to baseline.
Are you aware of any other nudges that help to cut-down plastic usage? Feel free to comment or get in touch: email@example.com
From Nudge Lebanon which is a non-governmental and non-profit initiative, working to apply behavioural insights to policy challenges. They use rigorous experimental approaches and tools typically used in the field of behavioural economics, such as randomised controlled trials.