Litter is one of the scourges of modern society. In the United Kingdom alone, more 30 million tonnes of unofficial litter (i.e. not in bins and recognised disposal units) are collected from streets annually, costing UK local authorities some £885 million to clean up.
In a new study, in the Journal of Marketing Management, Professors Parker, Medway and Roper have investigated how attitudes to places are affected by litter. For the first time, by adopting a quasi-experimental method with over 600 respondents, this study has provided evidence of a causal relationship between litter and place attitudes, at the level of the individual. The place chosen for the study was a park.
This, the authors hope, will be helpful information for local authorities making budgetary decisions. Councils have been cutting their investment into litter collection and street cleaning - but this study is the first of its kind to show that seeing litter does reduce attitudes. The authors go on to argue that as many of the other forms of place marketing (associated, for example, with inward investment) have not proved their worth, in ROI terms, then public money is better targeted at more basic interventions, like litter clearance, if a place wants to have a better image.
Finally, the study concludes that there is nothing contentious about clearing up litter. Unlike other physical incivilities, such as graffiti, everyone hates litter! Likewise, its removal is very straightforward and isn't associated with any displacement effects. This is in contrast to interventions such as CCTV which are costly and complicated and which have been associated with relocating rather than reducing crime.
The article can be accessed in full here http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0267257X.2015.1035307
The full citation for the article is
Parker, C., Roper, S. and Medway, D., 2015. Back to basics in the marketing of place: the impact of litter upon place attitudes. Journal of Marketing Management, (ahead-of-print), pp.1-23.
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