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.
IPM researchers and colleagues from other universities started researching the impact of litter - upon brands, upon consumers and upon places. Their early work won the prestigious Academy of Marketing prize in 2006*. This work was the first of its kind to quantify the occurrence of 'branded litter' and explore whether brand owners were using the gutter as a potential advertising channel for their easily-recognisable packaging. Further research** investigated how brand messages alter in the minds of consumers once the packaging becomes litter, and estimated the negative financial impact litter has on a brand.
In one of their most recent studies, 'Back to basics in the marketing of place', published by 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. Littered places are perceived more negatively - which is hardly surprising, but this work provides clear justification for the importance of street cleaning and the more basic, janitorial, elements of place management.
In a related study, 'Litter, gender and brand: The anticipation of incivilities and perceptions of crime', the authors also investigated how peoples' anticipation of crime and other incivilities was affected, concluding that people who see litter think crime levels are getting worse. This simple finding may help explain the disparity between actual levels of crime and perceived crime, in the UK. Whilst crime is falling, streets are getting more littered, which could be causing people to think crime is actually getting worse.
If you would like to find out more about our 'rubbish research' then contact Professor Dominic Medway (firstname.lastname@example.org)
IPM's Litter and Attitudes Research
*Roper, S & Parker, C. (2006). How (and where) the mighty have fallen: Branded litter. Journal of Marketing Management. 22(5–6): 473–487. doi:10.1362/026725706777978659
**Roper, S & Parker, C. (2013). Doing well by doing good: A quantitative investigation of the litter effect. Journal of Business Research. 66(11): 2262–2268. doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2012.02.018
Parker, C, Roper, S, & Medway, D. (2015). Back to basics in the marketing of place: the impact of litter upon place attitudes. Journal of Marketing Management. 31 (9-10): 1-23. doi.org/10.1080/0267257X.2015.1035307
Medway, D, Parker, C, and Roper, S. (2016). Litter, gender and brand: The anticipation of incivilities and perceptions of crime prevalence. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 45:135-144. doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2015.12.002