‘Nudge’ to community may stop ‘tide of litter’

Speakers at the recent Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful event
Speakers at the recent Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful event

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council was represented at an event held recently to tackle a “tide of litter” in Northern Ireland.

Delegates heard the total cost of clearing litter cost approximately £43 million in 2015-16, at the event on March 7.

Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, believes that offenders can be “nudged” to dispose of litter responsibly.

He explained: “A nudge is a way of encouraging a person to act in a particular manner – in this case not dropping litter Thankfully, most people don’t litter. A small number litter and don’t listen when you say stop; for those people we have fines and enforcement teams, who should be supported every step of the way. Everybody else who litters does it without really thinking about it and they are the people the nudge approach works for.”

Suggestions have included glow in the dark posters to deter littering after dark, spraying dog fouling with vivid dyes so people start to notice it as a problem, and encouraging dog owners to carry an extra bag in case they meet someone who has forgotten.

In December 2016, a spokesperson from Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said: “Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council spent a total of £2,471,527 on cleaning our roads, streets and open spaces; a rise of 14 per cent on spending during the previous year. This expression of serious intent to clean up our streets and parks was supported by a rise of 14 per cent in the number of people actually caught and fined for littering.”

A spokesperson for the local authority said: “For the small minority of people who do litter, council has an enforcement team that uses a range of powers to try to change behaviour.”