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Four new areas try to Bin it for Good after mixed results from initial trials

Four councils have rolled out a charity bins initiative to cut litter this month as part of the second phase of testing of a scheme that decreased litter by almost a fifth in seven parts of the country last year, though two of these areas saw an increase in litter over the trial period.

For three months, the Bin it for Good initiative, which is run by Keep Britain Tidy (KBT) and supported by the Wrigley Company, will be run in areas of Nottingham, Haringey, Sutton and Kettering, offering the public the chance to raise money for charity by reducing litter and putting more waste in bins.

Last September, areas of seven participating councils (Barnet, Birmingham, Breckland, Manchester, Northumberland, Thanet and the Wirral) converted all street bins into charity bins, with the amount of waste deposited in each (rather than sometimes being thrown on the ground) corresponding to the amount of money donated to a selected local charity.

The aim of the experiment was to test whether local community benefits would incentivise a change in littering behaviour across a range of communities, including a housing estate, the main retail area of a city, a market town, a student area and a costal resort.

KBT reported that, on average, the charity bins initiative decreased litter by 17 per cent across the seven areas, with £5,306 being awarded to participating local charities. The best results were found in Prudhoe town centre in Northumberland, where KBT recorded a 52 per cent reduction in litter.

No impact on student area

Two areas were not considered a success by KBT, however – the Oxford Road Corridor of Manchester, which is designated the student area, and the market town of Thetford in Breckland.

In Thetford, the proportion of litter on the street actually increased by an average of 28 per cent over the three months, which KBT blames partly on a stage of the Tour of Britain passing through the town during the second month and an additional street clean independent of the initiative taking place in the month before the pilot started, providing an inaccurate baseline.

Meanwhile, in the ‘student’ area of Manchester, in which there are two university campuses, bars, theatres, galleries and music venues, the council reported that the high footfall meant that ‘users of the area have not interacted with their surroundings, and therefore not fully understood the concept of the charity bins initiative’.

Over the three months, an average of five per cent growth in litter was recorded, though less waste in total was deposited in the third months than the baseline.  

Ahead of the new batch of pilots, KBT has suggested aspects of the campaign that could be improved. These include better timing so that large-scale events that could throw off results are kept to a minimum and more engagement with local businesses (for promotion) and street cleansing operatives (to improve monitoring).

No action on binning of recyclables

An issue not addressed in the report into the initial pilot was that of recyclable materials being put into general waste bins to boost the donations to charities.

Litter scheme urges residents to ‘Bin it for Good’
Though litter levels have generally dropped in participating areas, questions have been raised about the use of recyclable items
When Resource asked about this ahead of the first tranche of pilots, KBT admitted that the ‘campaign [was] testing whether community incentives can be an effective approach to preventing littering’ and that ‘the areas chosen for the project do not currently have recycling-on-the-go facilities’.

The charity also said that it hopes to trial a ‘similar initiative’ looking at community incentives in relation to recycling on-the-go but that ‘the development of that project is still in its early stages’.

At least some of the councils in the second batch of trial areas do offer recycling-on-the-go facilities.

‘We can’t keep cleaning up after those who litter’

Looking forward to the initiative being run in Sutton, Cllr Jill Whitehead, Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhood Committee at Sutton Council, said: “Sutton spends over £3 million a year on keeping our streets, parks and open spaces free from litter. At a time when our budgets are being severely cut, any savings can make a big difference and save taxpayers money.

“We can’t keep cleaning up after those who litter, and the only way to really tackle this is to alter the habits of people who drop litter without thinking. The Bin it for Good project supports Sutton Council’s One Planet goals to work to improve the quality of our local areas.”

Keep Britain Tidy’s report into the first set of pilots can be downloaded from the charity’s website.

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