The winning team of a design competition to create an engaging campaign to reduce litter on Birmingham city centre’s busiest streets. The competition was ran by Hubbub; the charity that organises environmental campaigns such as the famous ballot bin, and was held amongst groups of final year design students at Aston University.
Our team started by identifying the kinds of litter prominent on Birmingham’s New Street, and explored how this kind of litter was ending up on the floor.
It became clear that there is a a lot of chewing gum litter as people enter the Bullring for food as think they won’t be able to dispose of gum once inside. Additionally the majority of rubbish found was in the form of cigarette butts outside of Tesco Metro from staff and shoppers on a break and not walking to the nearest bin. The area is also more prone to people standing idle waiting for others and narrower areas aren’t always accessible for street cleaning machines.
We wanted to show the people of Birmingham just how much litter was on the streets, exploring options such as placing all collected rubbish in a clear cube that would be weighed, with the goal of collecting more than a certain mass for the duration of the campaign.
Although it would send a message, we felt the need to focus the campaign to behaviours people could relate to, with small litter such as cigarette butts and chewing gum being a logical target, accounting for around 80% of dropped litter.
As a result, we initially explored new ways to encourage disposal of butts and gum, starting with a bins shaped as stubbed out cigarette butts, and pads that chewing gum could be stuck to, however following more observations, we came to the conclusion that there were plenty of locations to properly dispose of this kind of rubbish on New Street.
Further research also indicated that 1 in 10 people thought that dropping cigarette butts on the ground didn’t count as littering. If we could change this behaviour, then we have the potential to clean up New Street.
We wanted use a high impact campaign to catch the attention of people on New Street, implying that dropping cigarette butts and gum was bad. The goal was to be disruptive so that people consciously realised the impact of dropping litter.
Starting at the top of New Street by the bull, parts of the open space would be obstructed by chewing gum sculptures, leaving no option but to walk around them, and be struck by the inconvenience of gum everywhere.
Each obstruction guides people towards a place of disposal of the rubbish but is also visually striking with a purpose of drawing attention to the annoyance that is gum.
The key location for cigarette butts was around Tesco, and where similar disruptive techniques would be applied. Again, a trail of cigarette butt obstructions leads to a giant stubbed out cigarette, still glowing with embers and smoking, surrounded by smaller stubs which the public can utilise to stub out their own cigarettes.
Finally, we wanted to make the existing ash trays on bins to stub out cigarettes more prominent by differentiating their colour from the rest of the bin, and pointing signage towards them throughout New Street. Part of the problem is that both the bin and ash tray are black, offering very little visual distinction, but this permanent remanent of the campaign will serve as a reminder and address an issue of visibility of the ash trays on New Street.
Hubbub loved the campaign, especially the making the existing ash trays on bins more prominent:
The bin wraps for the cigarette bins already on the street is a fantastically simple idea that draws attention to the cigarette bin as well as the bin itself. It’s a really practical, achievable idea that could make a big difference to street littering.
We were the winning team on the project, with our campaign being implemented on New Street at some point in 2017.
If there was a chance to further work on this campaign, I would like to address how the chewing gum sculptures would ensure people subsequently dealt with their gum responsibly. This could perhaps be by allowing gum to the stuck to the sculptures (although this may be enforcing negative behaviour), or simply by positioning bins alongside, visually in-keeping with the gum theme.