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Game theory aims to reduce littering in pioneering council experiment 

A COUNCIL experiment, believed to be the first of its kind, has launched in Caldecott Park.

Rugby Borough Council's experimental "rubbish-ometer" allows residents to cast a vote with their rubbish
Rugby Borough Council's experimental "rubbish-ometer" allows residents to cast a vote with their rubbish Published Wednesday, 31st March 2021

A giant “rubbish-ometer” featuring two litter bins, allowing residents to indicate which of two options most deserves their rubbish, has been installed to see if its use can reduce littering. The experiment encourages residents to dispose of their rubbish responsibly by inviting them to vote with their rubbish, turning the routine act of disposing of their waste into a game. 

The experiment builds on behavioural science research that shows that human behaviours are influenced by the behaviour of others and a desire for a reward, among other factors. The game aims to give residents a motive to follow other people’s example and allow residents to back their favourite option.

The launch comes after councillors backed a new drive to tackle litter in Rugby, following adoption of new measures at a meeting of the council’s Cabinet on Monday night (29 March).

A spokesman for Rugby Borough Council said: “The council has been using the findings of behavioural science research to influence its communications in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and this game builds on that approach.

“With lockdown easing and the weather improving, use of our parks and open spaces will increase. With that will come an increase in littering, but we hope that this experiment will give residents motivation to do the right thing for Rugby.

“Everyone knows that it is wrong to litter, yet still some people do it. This game introduces behavioural science techniques to influence that behaviour.

“It will be interesting to monitor the rubbish-ometer over the coming weeks to see if this approach makes a difference.”

Other measures approved by the council include support for Duke of Edinburgh Award volunteer litter pickers, a review of enforcement powers, funding for new ways to tackle litter with technology, and a clean-up on the A46.
 

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