Tackling the BUTT of the problem

Veolia and City of Westminster take a lead on Neat Streets, a new campaign in Villiers Street to trial ways to tackle littering.

How Veolia and Westminster City Council will address chewing gum and cigarette butt waste on Villiers Street

Research has identified chewing gum and cigarette butts as two of the biggest issues in Villiers Street.

Veolia, cleans Villiers Street on behalf of the City of Westminster and now the two organisations have begun to address cigarette littering with a series of specifically designed programmes drawing on the most innovative schemes from across the world. These include a two meter musical cigarette poll from Holland, a cigarette voting ashtray which allows smokers to vote on topical sporting results, and giant cigarette displays that help draw attention to the issue.
 Westminster City Council, Veolia, and environmental charity Hubbub have teamed up to pilot Neat Streets – tackling the growing problem of litter on the UK’s streets.
The campaign is taking place in Westminster, a leading borough in the heart of London, with a series of interactive installations and exhibitions in Villiers Street (near Charing Cross railway station) to trial new ways of encouraging people not to litter.
Research undertaken by Keep Britain Tidy, in advance of the campaign, found that chewing gum and cigarette butts overwhelmingly formed the largest source of litter in Villiers Street, with the latter being responsible for 78% of all observed litter.   
The campaign began with a series of schemes aimed at targeting chewing gum littering, including a peppermint pointillist displays and Gumdrop bins which engaged the public in a fun and challenging way to encourage them to bin their chewing gum.
Keep Britain Tidy’s mid-term research found that these pilot schemes have had a notable effect, with chewing gum litter falling by 54% in June and 26% in July. The research also suggests that littering has fallen by 26% overall since the campaign begun. The campaign is now turning to tackling cigarette littering. The research revealed that 89% of observed smokers littered their cigarette butt, rising to 99% of those participating in the night time economy.

On the basis of Keep Britain Tidy’s findings, Hubbub, Veolia and the City of Westminster have designed a number of interactive installations and performances, aimed at targeting litterers and encouraging them to change their behaviour.
The installations and performances being introduced to tackle cigarette litterers this month includes:

  • Fumo musical pole – Fumo is an interactive smoker’s pole that rewards the public when they use it to dispose of their cigarette butts. The reward is an audio-visual display, consisting of an energetic tune and LED lights.
  • A cigarette voting ashtray – the ashtray will engage smokers and encourage them to bin their cigarette butts, by providing a series of weekly sports questions, and allowing smokers to choose their answer by selecting a compartment of the ashtray.
  • The Butts Out campaign – local pubs and bars are stocking quirkily designed portable ashtrays available for smokers to use on-the-go.
  • Giant cigarettes – these will be installed in piles in Villiers Street to raise awareness of the issue, previously used in The City of London’s ‘No Small Problem’ campaign

To investigate how effective the different behaviour change trials are, Keep Britain Tidy will be undertaking regular monitoring of littering habits in Villiers Street, and reporting on their findings in an overall report in October.

Cllr Richard Beddoe, Westminster City Council cabinet member for city management, said: “Cigarette butts, alongside discarded chewing gum, are two of local government’s sworn enemies – costing the public purse needless millions every year.
“The results so far are hugely encouraging, and we hope the next phase of the Villiers Street pilot will help highlight the issue nationally and inspire people to tackle the root causes. The old excuses of ‘there are not enough bins’ simply do not wash.
Scott Edgell, Veolia’s General Manager for Central London said: 
“We are really delighted with the results we are seeing so far with this campaign. As a business we are always looking for new ways to help us protect the environment and keep London looking its best. The Neat Streets campaign seems to be making real progress and anything that reduces the amount of cigarette ends hitting the pavement is very worthwhile indeed.”
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