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3+1 Nudges for sustainable Waste Management

1. Quiz Bins

Can you imagine that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo could contribute to the reduction of littering without even being aware of it? Well they already do so!

The Hubbub, an English environmental charity organization, designed back in 2015 a smart Nudge aiming to reduce cigarette littering. Instead of trying to find a place to throw your cigarette butt, and risking throwing it on the street, you can take part in a buzzing quiz. Big “Ballot Bins” spread around the city ask you the question: Messi or Ronaldo?, Hamburger or Pizza?, What came first: Chicken or Egg?.

“We like being asked questions – it boosts morale, awakens the brain, and is much more engaging than being instructed” the organizers claim and the results of their experiment underline their point. Within 6 weeks when the project was running on Villiers Street in London there was a 20% decrease on butt littering! In project replications around the world ever since the percentage reached 46%.

And in case the question is not that buzzing anymore, the magnetic letters on the bin can be used to change it as you like and create a new social poll!

2. Green Footprints

Would it be possible that some foot stickers can increase recycling rates? A social experiment in Copenhagen proved it possible!

Back in 2011, professor Pelle G. Hansen and his students designed a Nudge that would gently alter peoples’ behavior so that they throw the right waste to the right bins. The professor and students placed green footprints on the pavements in the center of Copenhagen that led to garbage bins. Similarly, as to the cigarette butts, it might not always be easy to find a bin when you feel the hurry to throw your litter while you running late for work or crossing a street. Hansen’s team highlights that “the footprints work as a visible reminder for pedestrians who aren’t fully aware of their actions when they litter and so end up being a far more effective tool than empty threats or penalties”. The results of the experiment were very interesting: 46% decrease in wrappers that ended up on the street. Imagine blue steps leading you to blue bins where glass should be thrown and green steps to green bins where paper goes.

Long term applications of the Nudge outside Denmark showed that the littering percentages might maintain such an increase in the long run, however the impact is still visible after several weeks of the implementation of the steps.

Hansen, P.G., & Jespersen, A.M. (2013). Nudge and the manipulation of choice: A framework for the responsible use of the nudge approach to behavior change in public policy. European Journal of Risk Regulation, 1, 3-28

Keep Britain Tidy, Centre For Social Innovation (2015). Case Study: Green Footprints. A social experiment to nudge people towards responsible litter disposal

3. Bottomless Bin

Can a bin become such an attraction that people seek to throw their garbage there? Well, how often do you find a bottomless bin?

A Volkswagen behavioral initiative called “The Fun Theory” was every year asking for innovative ideas with added value for our everyday bad habits. The winning idea for 2009 was a Nudge of a Bin producing a cartoon type of sound for falling objects when someone dropped their litter in. It seemed like several seconds were passing until the litter reached the (fake) bottom of the bin and when they did a deafening sound was heard from a speaker secretly attached in the inside of the Bin. The experiment was run in Germany in 2009 and apart from many curious people trying to find out what was going on, the Bin managed to collect 72kg of garbage in one day, 41% more than usual.

4. The Print Your City / Zero Waste City project

It is commonly accepted that a Circular Economy, where products can be re-used many times in different forms is the key for the future of sustainable economy. How about your plastic waste becoming public benches?

In 2018, the Coca-Cola company, in collaboration with the New Raw Architecture Office and local authorities, launched the Zero Waste Cities project, based in Thessaloniki. The idea is to use the technology of 3D printing with raw material (recyclable plastic products) to build public benches.

The project was originally implemented in Amsterdam back in 2016 from the New Raw, Aectual and TU Delft. 60-80 kg of recyclable plastic properly sorted, washed and shredded can become raw material for a large 3D printer which can “print” a bench of similar mass.

In other words, a new, better way of Urban Living.

Can you imagine how many opportunities for social growth, entrepreneurship and integration can be created?

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