The battle against litter is far from over. There have been numerous campaigns each year to combat the issue, and one of the most recent projects involves a joint research partnership with Coca-Cola European Partners and leading anti-litter charity Keep Britain Tidy and its Centre for Social Innovation.

The two organisations wanted to develop a better understanding of why people litter soft drinks packaging, and focused on the behaviour of young adults aged between 16 and 25, who were identified as those most likely to litter. Check out the findings (and possible solutions) below, or view them in this infographic

1. The perception of litter

Many young people have different definitions of what littering means. For example, putting cigarettes down the drain or leaving an empty can on a bench rather than the ground was not seen as littering. Education and raising awareness of what constitutes litter through targeted, short-term campaigns can make a positive difference and inspire this age group to value and care more for the environment.

Give the Coca-Cola Recyclometer a try!

2. The type of packaging

Under 25s think it’s less acceptable to litter plastic bottles, compared to cans and glass bottles, because they’re re-sealable and can be used and disposed of later. There’s potential here to look at our packaging solutions and encourage young people to buy more reusable packs above other options which they’re more likely to litter.

Read more about how we reduce, reuse and recycle across our business. 

3. The way they’re seen by peers

Most young adults would never consider littering on a first date, in front of parents or a younger sibling for fear they would be frowned upon or ‘told off’; but they admitted they would regularly litter around groups of friends, despite knowing it was wrong. Positive peer pressure to shift this type of behaviour would have the most impact here, while introducing ‘pledge making’ into anti-litter campaigns has already shown to be successful in related areas such as recycling.

FAQ: What is Coca‑Cola doing to reduce energy use, waste and packaging?

4. The location: litter breeds litter

Littering close to home was seen as unacceptable, compared to in a town centre, where the location was viewed as dirtier and young people feel more anonymous. Similarly, it was considered acceptable to litter at festivals, cinemas, on the tube and in other places believed to be cleaned regularly (or where there are no bins available). Redesigning or improving the convenience of finding bins is probably the most effective solution here, especially in busy areas near fast food joints and drink outlets.

The findings from the research will be used to inform future litter prevention strategies from Coca-Cola European Partners, its charity partners and industry groups.

“Understanding why and when people litter is key to developing cost-effective solutions that will make the difference we all want to see, reducing littering across the country,” says Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive at Keep Britain Tidy.

Coca-Cola European Partners CSR Senior Manager, Bev Burham added: “No-one likes litter, but still it is an issue. At CCEP, we are determined to minimising the environmental impact of our products. It forms a key part of our ongoing sustainability agenda, from the way our products are manufactured and distributed, to how they are then disposed of by consumers.”

Read how Coca-Cola European Partners teamed up with Keep Wales Tidy, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Hubbub and Clean Up Britain to task students across Great Britain to develop anti-litter campaigns for their local areas, as part of their annual Real Business Challenge competition.