aub sustainability award 2024
Final-Major Project
Over 2 million pieces of litter are dropped every day in the UK

How can we reduce litter and improve planetary health?


With litter increasing and local service funding cuts, local communities are now the answer to the litter blighting our environment. Young people are the biggest litterers but they also account for the generation most concerned about the future of the climate.  

Nudge targets eco-conscious teenagers by gamifying litter. Our smart bins tally your amount of waste binned whilst providing positive reinforcement and rewards. The scheme uses behaviour nudging techniques for non-eco-conscious teenagers to intervene in the user journey when litter is most likely to occur.

geared for change

Nudge’s verbal branding resonates with the 80 per cent of 14-16-year-olds who feel pressured to save the planet but don't think they are well enough equipped to make a difference. The language and brand style are a fresh approach for the waste disposal industry and the scheme is proactive and rewarding in comparison to many anti-litter campaigns.

knowledge is power

The educational video below can be displayed on the bin screens and aims to educate people about the environmental consequences of litter. By doing so in a short and bold video it encourages passers-by to engage with the content and then provides Nudge as the solution.

nudge X macdonald’s
With fast food packaging dominating litter, the collaboration aims to tackle the behaviour at the source. By providing fast food employees with biodegradable stickers, which are applied to the packaging, customers are nudged to use a bin and begin earning rewards which leads to change.


The in-depth process

Exploring manipulation

While looking for signs of human manipulation I couldn’t ignore the negative signs and was shocked at how much litter I could see once I started looking.

Litter is a big issue
Litter is something which is improperly discarded by the public in an area.

(CPRE, 2020)
It’s estimated there will be more plastic in our sea than fish by 2050.
(Plastic Soup Foundation, 2021)

2 million pieces of litter are dropped everyday in the UK. 
(Keep Britain Tidy, 2024)
99% of streets in UK town centres have cigarette litter.
(Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council, 2023)

How do people feel about litter?
My key insights from this interview were that people lack education surrounding litter, litter picking is proactive and makes a difference and the consequences of litter are poorly understood.

Visual experiments

Fuelled by my research, I experimented with creating visuals with the litter I’d found to highlight the consequnces of  our actions.

Becoming a litter picker!

The Dorset Devils are volunteer litter pickers local to Bournemouth. I was provided with a grabber, bucket and gloves to pick up litter whenever suited me.

I found the task very rewarding and in less then an hour I collected 2 buckets worth.

How do people feel about litter?
My key insights from this interview were that people of all ages and backgrounds take part, local residents are wanting to make a change and it’s fallen to community members to pick up litter after council failings.

Choosing a location context

Bournemouth’s headlines of litter left on beaches and in public spaces made it my project focus. I also spoke to an older adults who explained that he tried to report litter and couldn’t, so I tested it this and also unable to. 

Visualising litter collected

Analysis of a BCP bin
Broken Windows Theory

Using this theory I was able to explain the current littering system and identify where I could create a design intervention. 

Scale of littering
I chose to target the litterers who do so occasionally as these are the ‘low hanging fruit’ and least resistant to change, increasing the chance of a societal ‘tipping point’.

Initial ideas + project aims

Route 1- Eco-litter signage

I made paper from the grass at West Cliff and created biodegradable signage. The signs will be dropped like litter and ironically display anti-litter messages. These signs are a down-stream option however and aren’t suitable as they intervene too late in the user journey. It is also a format that’s unlikely to appeal to teenagers and it currently lacks gamification.

Route 2- Reduce the Reciept

I collected my receipts and was shocked at how much of my food comes in single-use packaging. This route visualises the amount of plastic in our environment and gives people the tools to reduce their consumption. Upon reflection of this idea, it disregards the knowledge that behaviour change occurs from positive signage. It may appear a negative approach to litter and an inappropriate tool for reducing litter overall. 

Route 3- Nudge

This idea encourages communities to take pride in their local area by picking up litter and rewarding them for it. It uses bright colours to appeal to teenagers and highlights the value packaging has if binned.

I decided to develop route 3 as it combines my research with potential behaviour theories to change user behaviour. The idea is that 1 piece of litter = 1 point and the app counts your progress. You journey through levels and achievements whilst competing with friends who have a shared goal.

“I can imagine me and my friends using it for sure, it seems fun and easy.”
Abbie Hampton, 15
“Your smart bin idea and using extrinsic motivation (rewards) to encourage bin usage is a great idea.”

Claire Gellard- psychologist with a social behaviour focus
“It could make a real difference to people’s perception of litter.”
Em J- Litter Free Dorset

Nudge Theory
People have 2 thinking systems, one for making automatic decisions and one for methodical decisions. Nudges in design are effective at behaviour change because they appeal to the automatic system. Using different nudging techniques I can encourage people to not litter and create sustained behaviour change.

Initial ideas

Nudge’s brand mission is to bring empowerment and pride to every community member, fuelling a litter-free future. The positive, upbeat and change-making aspect of the brand targets young people who want to make a difference and gives them a new community.

We strive to provide the tools to help young people positively impact their local environment and take charge of the climate crisis.
The Neulis font is sans-serif, giving authority and youth to the initiative. I chose a bright colour scheme which differs from existing environmental brands to fit Nudge’s brand values.
The ‘e’ has been nudged upwards which shows movement. It could also symbolise an item being dropped into a bin. Using the ‘e’ terminal as an arrowhead enforces sustainability.

Using the outline of litter items I’d found, I created a shape library to form the basis of my branding. I imagined these shapes to be sticker elements of the brand identity as this creates a youthful aesthetic.

Developing branding ideas

I tested out different typefaces and formats for the brand identity. It was important the type was bold and had character but I felt the impact of the messaging was lacking for the target audience. There was also a lack of texture and the overall designs felt flat.

The branding was looking flat and lacked a link to the visual language of litter so I left paper (tied up) outside for a week. The paper gained the textures and changes similar to litter having been left outside and I applied these to my digital elements.

I also used popular littered items and rolled them in ink to make a texture. The mark-making represents the invisible marks made by litter as it’s blown around the floor and the grain in the ink adds a rugged and dirty aesthetic similar to litter.

Bin design

User feedback

It was great to receive positive feedback from my users and to hear that they could see it working with young people in a real-world scenario.

“Young people meet up outside in parks quite often so there’s real opportunity for use there. Thanks for tackling such a tricky societal issue.” 

Peter Ryan, Dorset Devil’s founder

“We’ve had real success with positive campaigns and I think the idea will appeal to those young people who want to make a difference yes.”
Emj- Litter Free Dorset