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How Cape Town is keeping 2,000kg of refuse off its streets each day

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Behaviour can be a tough thing to change; especially if there are just about no consequences for doing things they have always been done.

Human beings are divided into two categories: Those who litter and those who don’t; with smokers often in the littering camp.

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The Cape Town Central City Improvement District’s (CCID) autumn Urban Management campaign put stompies and street refuse on display in the Cape Town CBD to drive home the message that mess – as unsightly and unhygienic as it is – also costs a lot of money to clean up – a cost that comes out the coffers of tax-paying residents’ purse.

Between 1 November 2016 and 31 January 2017, the CCID Urban Management precinct managers coordinated the cleaning of 8,074 drains as well as the removal of 807 incidents of graffiti and a whopping 370kg of cigarette butts tossed on pavements across the 1.62km2 CCID area. The CCID’s cleaning teams remove hundreds of kilos of stompies from the CBD each year –1,722kg to be exact last year alone.

Richard Beesley, manager of the CCID’s Urban Management department says: “The #KeepItClean campaign is a great opportunity to create public awareness around just how rates and special levies are spent to deal with the clean-up of often illegal littering – including stompies on the ground and dumping waste directly on the streets. Imagine how much better we could use the money spent on clearing up illegal littering if this was available to spend on other projects CBD stakeholders could enjoy in public spaces?”

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The city arranged for public activations in Bree Street and in St Georges Mall showing what 2,100kg of street refuse (the amount the CCID collects every day at a cost of R26,000) looks like: 700 bulging refuse bags.

A large portion of this little comprises cigarette butts, so in order to effect change of behaviour in smokers, the CCID experimented with new-style ciggie bins outside a variety of call centres on St Georges Mall and in Adderley Street to debate the issues of the day.

The display area contained a topical or fun question, changed on a regular basis, and asked smokers to vote with their butts. The idea was to encourage them to discard their stompies in a designated bin rather than on the sidewalk or in the gutter. And, judging by the crowds it drew and the number of butts it held at the end of each day, the activation was a huge success. Questions included “Belieber or Non-Belieber?” to coincide with the Justin Bieber concert (smokers were equally divided on this) and “Is it okay to have an office romance?” (smokers thought it was).

“We’ll be taking the lessons learnt from this experiment to see how we can move forward,” says Beesley. “Clearly, behavioural change can be affectively achieved if you engage directly with the public in a fun or highly interactive way.”

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