Your charity for Scotland’s environment

No Butts on Rose Street

“Every year we audit the street cleanliness and without fail cigarette litter is always an issue. This Keep Scotland Beautiful campaign in Rose Street, funded by BIDs Scotland will bring this issue to people’s attention and will hopefully significantly reduce cigarette litter. It is bold and cheeky but with pub-goers getting behind it and using the personal ashtrays the cleanliness of the area could significantly improve.” Inspiring Edinburgh, Business Improvement District, Edinburgh


“Nudge theory has been globally recognised as providing a methodology to tackle inherent and intransigent anti-social behaviours damaging to the environment. We have successfully used this approach to develop innovative solutions to littering that have delivered lasting behaviour change in local communities.” Derek Robertson, Chief Executive, Keep Scotland Beautiful


The challenge

In Scotland there are two million cigarettes smoked and 12 tonnes of cigarette litter dropped every day. Butts are the largest single litter item, accounting for over 40% of street litter with young adult smokers the worst offenders.

Edinburgh venues and businesses based in Rose Street (a narrow street with an international reputation for its large number of bars and pubs and attractive to a younger customer demographic) were becoming increasingly concerned at the decline in cleanliness standards of the street and the negative impact this was having on the visitor experience and on residents and their businesses.

An innovative solution was required to halt this decline in litter standards and to identify ways to change the damaging behaviour of some customers.


Our expertise

Our people have extensive experience of creating, running and analysing innovative approaches to tackle littering behaviour. We have worked with a range of partners on a variety of projects across Scotland as well as providing education to schools on the damaging effects of litter through our Eco-Schools Scotland programme.


Co-creation: our partner

Essential Edinburgh is a Business Improvement District (BID), where local businesses work together to ensure that the centre of Scotland’s capital excels as a place for business, shopping and leisure. It has at its core the importance of creating and maintaining street space that is clean and attractive as well as safe and secure for visitors, workers and residents.

As a world heritage site, Edinburgh receives almost 4m visitors each year, over two-fifths of all visitors to Scotland, generating £1.3bn for the national economy. Visitor experience surveys had highlighted “less litter” as top focus for improvement for the city. Businesses based within the BID also recognised that a high-quality tourism experience and a cared for built environment would help deliver a competitive edge for their businesses whilst at the same time generating greater community support for tourism.


Delivery: No Butts on Rose Street

We organised a cheeky behaviour change campaign using ‘nudge’ theory to reduce cigarette litter on Edinburgh’s Rose Street.

Nudge theory is based on the principle of using positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions to influence the motives of people.  Evidence has shown that this approach is more effective in achieving a desired outcome than using legislation or enforcement alone.

The campaign had three interlinked parts – awareness raising, social pressure and a financial penalty. Impactful and memorable, the No Butts campaign delivered a strong, highly visible anti-littering message that appealed to younger visitors and customers in the area.

In addition to a range of posters and images on beermats to promote anti-litter messages and to encourage people to pick up free ashtrays, smokers were also warned that they could face fines of £80 both inside and outside premises for dropping a cigarette butt on the ground. Free portable ashtrays were given out in participating pubs and bars which also included the number for a stop smoking helpline.


Measurement and impact

We gave out more than 500 portable ashtrays over a six-week period and saw an overall decrease in the volume of litter in Rose Street in this time. We worked closely with 16 pubs which allowed us to gain valuable insights into the campaign from business owners, customers, residents and visitors. We have used this knowledge and experience to refine and develop our nudge based approach and wider social innovation work.

Building on the success of the Rose Street Campaign to change cigarette littering behaviour, we have developed a national coalition to support cleaning up Scotland’s roads. Working with the National Trust for Scotland throughout the summer of 2017, we gave away over 2,000 free portable ashtrays at National Trust Scotland visitor centres and partner outlets, helping to prevent cigarette litter on Scotland’s iconic roadsides and countryside.

The No Butts campaign clearly demonstrated the powerful impact of awareness raising and social pressure in changing behaviour.