Keep Britain Tidy and Coca-Cola Enterprises recognise that non-alcoholic drinks littering is a significant issue across England. The latest Local Environmental Quality Survey of England (LEQSE) shows that non-alcoholic drinks related litter was present on 57% of ‘Other retail and commercial’ land uses.

Both were keen to encourage more responsible behaviour in their consumers in terms of the disposal and recycling of their bottles and cans – and part of that is understanding what drives this behaviour.

Research & insight

Previous research tells us that there is a ‘decoupling’ between attitudes and behaviour when it comes to littering – so much so that asking people what the problem is and how to solve it will not dig deep enough into the drivers of behaviour.

From this we developed a 4-stage process:

  1. Observe – Environment as-is, unseen on-site, record decision-making activity
  2. Ask – Declared ‘deliberative’ values in intercept interview on-site (and recruit for next stage)
  3. Extract – people’s non-conscious thinking in focus groups
  4. Account – Change the architecture/furniture on the street & re-observe, unseen on-site


1. Observe

Two sites were discretely observed for littering and wider (correct) disposal behaviours

  • 6 hours a day
  • For 3 days each week


  • Litter/item type
  • and the disposal placement (‘Channel/gutter’, ‘Paving joints’, etc.) according LEQSE classification
  • and the method of disposal (‘Drop: intentional’, ‘Flick/fling’, ‘Inch away’, etc.) according to Keep America Beautiful study (2009)
  • added contextual factors such as speed of walking, with friends or alone, etc.

Of 245 disposals only 1.2% of all littered items where coca cola products

2. Ask

Two sites were sampled for on-street survey

  • 49 on-street interviews


  • Declared ‘deliberative’ values
  • Innovative technique using the Personal Norms Against Litter Scale (Kallgren, Reno, and Cialdini, 2000) to get deep-seated semi-implicit responses
  • and recruit for Qual groups

Declared litterers and declared non-litters have similar opinions about cleanliness

3. Extract

2 x 8 people qualitative group participants


  • So visible! Over estimated fizzy drinks as most littered item after cigarettesnon-alcoholic drinks ‘beacons of litter’ (31% or 5 of 16 responses). In reality, non-alcoholic drinks littering was 1.2% (3 of 245) of all binning and littering combined – certainly nowhere near 31% that our group presented
  • Respondents were miming ‘dropping’ litter in bins or on floor whenever they said it –  shows a shared internal ‘script’, and that open drop bins match better most people

4. Account

To test the impact of ‘beautification’ and ‘disposal convenience’ on littering/binning behaviours, we altered the environment.

  • In week 1, no changes to the site took place
  • At the start of week 2, both sites were cleansed to a high level and extra litter bins were added


10% reduction in general littering across two weeks when environment altered

  • Younger generation littering fizzy drinks
  • Amount of actual littering of fizzy drinks was tiny (1.2% of total bin disposals plus floor disposals), but stood out on pavement giving impression of a lot (focus group)
  • Non-alcoholic drinks litterers We found that 100% of our non-alcoholic drinks litterers littered when in a group – no one littered alone. Also, in Australia in 1997 they found similar: “People under the age of 25 were most likely to litter if they were in a group; people over the age of 25 were most likely to litter when they were alone.”
  • Non-alcoholic drinks littered may communicate that other less overt littering is more likely to be okay – they become ‘persuasion beacons’.
  • And these ‘persuasion beacons’ are likely harming multiple levels of a brand’s evaluation as Roper and Parker (2013) concluded and quantified in their paper ‘Doing well by doing good: A quantitative investigation of the litter effect’.