Changing the plastic-heavy-behaviours of a whole London Borough
  • Partner: North London Waste Authority
  • Market: Climate & Biodiversity

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  • Marketing, PR & Social Media
  • Purpose Advertising & Campaigns
  • Research & Strategy

Each week, north Londoners throw out 46 million pieces of plastic. That’s over 717 UK football pitches worth! North London Waste Authority (NLWA) is committed to reducing that waste to protect the local environment for future generations. We supported them to conduct in-depth behavioural research on the target audience, before developing and implementing a borough-wide communications campaign  – Bring It, Barnet – to change resident’s behaviour around single use plastic.

77% of Barnet locals want to reduce single-use plastic
So we’re helping them do it.
2 million commuters came across the campaign
In High Barnet and East Finchley stations.
Scaling across London
Once our evaluation is complete, we plan to scale the campaign across all North London Boroughs.

The challenge

The rise in popularity and convenience of single-use plastics has led to a plastic waste and pollution problem. Although people see recycling as an easy way out, just 12% of plastic waste actually gets recycled, and the rest ends up in the rubbish.

Opting out of single-use plastic altogether in our daily lives is the real way forward, but expecting Londoners to swap convenience for the environment is a big ask. We found that 77% of Barnet locals want to reduce single use plastic, which was a great sign. However, they often forgot or left behind their reusables, and weren’t aware of all the places they could use them.

The solution

Changing behaviour doesn’t happen overnight, it takes in depth research, serious strategy, and a little bit of patience. So we got started as soon as we could. The research we conducted with local residents revealed the real drivers behind their behaviour and barriers to change.

Our strategy was built off the back of these insights, using a 360 targeting approach with out-of-home activations around the borough, locally targeted digital ads timed to remind at useful moments, and business integration with stickers and posters in windows.  The evaluation will be completed by May 2024 – so stay tuned! The creative, which was also tested with locals, used product shots as visual prompts with short memorable copy, as well as featuring local businesses to educate residents on where they could bring reusables. And it all said one, simple thing:
Bring It, Barnet.

Truly understand the drivers of behaviour.
Changing how people behave is difficult. To do it effectively, you must understand why they struggle and what drives them from within. This means doing thorough research on their behaviour. You can start with COM-B, but for more detailed insights, the Theoretical Domains Framework is better - giving you more nuance to tailor your intervention. 
Key Insights
Go with the flow of what’s already being done.

The majority of Barnet residents already engage in climate-friendly behaviour. We discovered that over 85% already use reusable shopping bags and over 83% already use reusable water bottles. Knowing that, we knew our job was to remind, prompt and expand their thinking to other forms of reusables, not to preach about plastic.

Changing one behaviour can have a huge impact.

By switching to reusable alternatives, residents could reduce their own carbon footprint by 457 kg per year. That’s 127 car rides across Barnet or over 2.3  years of charging your phone in a local Barnet café! Residents could stand to save over £4,881 by switching to reusables. We used these personal wins to nudge people in the right direction.

  • Make sure you have something for everyone

    We knew that different people had different drivers when it came to reducing single-use plastic. So we used a combination of injunctive information (i.e showing that peers were already on board with statistics like ‘4 in 5 Barnet locals already use reusable bottles’) to tap into the fear of being left behind, messaging around carbon and cost savings, and straight up simple reminders to drive behaviour change.

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