Nudging reduced cigarette littering in Skåne

Nicotine rabbit and colorful ashtrays reduce the number of cigarette butts fimpar on the ground with the help of nudging

Photo: Andreas Offesson, Sysav

A Win Win World has much experience in nudging to help smokers put out their cigarettes correctly. To make the cigarette butts end up in the ashtray instead of on the ground, in other words. In 2017–2018 we conducted a new pilot study on this topic together with the waste management company Sysav in the Skåne region in southern Sweden, on bus stops in the region.

The project built upon our previous work in Gothenburg. We kept the focus on visibility, humor and measurability but replaced the Gothenburgian pigeon with a cute little nicotine-addicted rabbit. The sign reads "Please stub out in the ashtray. The Nicotine Rabbit (which rhymes in Swedish) is trying to quit smoking", the aim of which was to make smokers consider the consequences of leaving cigarette butts on the ground.

Just like in Gothenburg, the results from the pilot study, which took place in the cities of Lund, Ystad and Trelleborg, were astounding – the nudge concept worked on average 56 % better than regular ashtrays. It is thus very clear that nudging is a good way to counteract cigarette littering and that many cities' strategies of making ashtrays blend in with their surroundings should be abandoned.


The waste management company Sysav is co-owned by  14 municipalities in Skåne. The company heard about A Win Win World's cigarette littering project on tram stops in Gothenburg and was inspired  – would a similar nudge work at bus stops in Skåne as well?

Nice sign with a rabbit and the text "Please stub out in the ashtray. The nicotine rabbit is trying to quit smoking. Thanks!"

The Nicotine Rabbit, trembling. Photo: Jessica Viktorsson, A Win Win World

How we measured the results

After adapting the measurement method to the local context, we tested the concept on nine carefully chosen bus stops, while we at nine other bus stops onlye put up dark green ashtrays. These bus stops constituted the study's control group. We measured during six weeks.

Combined nudge concept

A nudge makes it easy to behave correctly without forcing, bribing or punishing. A successful way of making it easy for smokers to dispose of their cigarette butts correctly is to make the ashtrays highly visible, and a successful way of increasing smokers' motivation to do so is to use humor and cute animals. This is what our results in Gothenburg showed. Furthermore, those same results showed att making the ashtrays and signs colorful and using large colorful ground paintings can work well. So we put these elements together into a strong, day-and-year-round-ready combined nudge concept. 

Nudge concept, ground paintings and cute nicotine rabbit sign

In order to maximise the strength of the nudge and to ensure that it holds up when there's snow and leaves on the ground, we combined sign and ground painting. We chose the simple route of squares with its finishing semi-cirle so as to make it possible to tailor the concept to each bus stop's unique layout – as well as to give kids the opportunity to hopscotch. Photo : Carina Eklund, Trelleborg Municipality

Results from the pilot study

Thanks to the nudge concept, approximately 1 100 more cigarette butts found their way into ashtrays during the measurement period. We saw a general decrease in the number of cigarette butts on the ground, but this reduction was significantly stronger for the bus stops with the nudge concept, including within each of the three municipalities. In fact, the number of cigarette butts on the ground decreased by, on average, fully 26 % more on the nudge stops than on the control stops already the day after the ashtrays and nudge concept were installed – and at the end of the measurement period the difference had increased to 56 %.

This difference is in the same order of magnitude as it was in Gothenburg. The rate of decrease was at its strongest immediately after the installation, but the decrease continued throughout the measurement period, and did so faster for the nudge stops during the whole time. So the effect of the nudge grew over time, also that just as in the study in Gothenburg

Overall, the results show that this type of  nudging is a good and cost-effective way to quickly make progress on the problem of cigarette butts on the ground at bus stops. They also show that it isn't a good idea to camouflage one's ashtrays in order to make them blend into their surroundings, as is an all too common practice.

That all of these conclusions were the same as in Gothenburg, and that there were no contradictory results between the studies, clearly shows the strength in this type of nudging.

The nudge is spreading – perhaps to you as well?

Clearly, nudging is a cost-effective way of counteracting the environmental, aesthetic and budgetary problem of cigarette littering. Since waste from tobacco-related products make out 80 % of all street littering in Sweden, both the public's and the public sector's appetite for solutions is large. For instance, the municipality of Kävlinge decided to use the nudge concept at its bus stops just a  week after we presented the results to Sysav. Moreover, Lund decided equally quickly to put up colorful ashtrays on all of their bus stops.

We at A Win Win World want to highlight Sysav's important role as a Swedish pioneer within using nudging and the empirical approach. And we are not the only ones, as shown by our winning the Most Effective prize in the international, prestigious competition Nudge Awards 2018 for  this type of  nudging. The prize was mainly awarded to the Gothenburg study, but it surely helped that we were able to say that the nudge there has spread to other cities in the country.

Do you want to use nudging to reduce cigarette littering in your city, at your workplace or in your residential area? If so, you're more than welcome to contact us.

Many thanks to the municipality personnel and to all committed citizens. Thank you to Sysav, the City of Lund, Ystad Municipality och Trelleborg Municipality for your desire to think new and to work with measurability. Finally, thanks also to Blinka Blå and to our reference group of members in the Nudging Sweden network for good cooperation in the concept creation process, and to  Mindcamp for good cooperation in the analysis.

More images (click to enlarge)

Want to use a photo? Contact us.

Curious about the details?

The report contains:

  • More of the nudge concept's and design specifications
  • More about study design, measurement method and analysis method. 
  • Detailed results 
  • Discussion

Photo: Andreas Offesson, Sysav

Hi Ann Thorén,

project manager at Sysav, the waste management company co-owned by 14 municipalities in Skåne (southern Sweden).

How did you first hear about  nudging?
– It was 4–5 years ago, at a workshop on diverging food waste from other waste. I immediately became excited about the method.

Why did you want to work with nudging in this project?
– Nudging is a new way of working for us. Reducing littering is a big challenge, as it centers around changing people's behavior. And we felt that perhaps nudging could make a difference here. We were inspired by those who had tested the method before us and wanted to see if we could build upon an existing concept.

What do you think about the project's results?
– So much fun that the difference became so large! That visible ashtrays really do decrease cigarette littering. We spent much time to make the study as scientific as possible, but at the heart of the intervention is not particularly demanding, either in resources or money. So it comes down to having the guts to draw attention to the ashtrays instead of designing the to blend into the surroundings.

– It is also fun that other municipalities in our region can expand the work done by Ystad, Trelleborg and Lund municipalities and get even more smokers to stub out correctly..

Which role do you see that nudging can play in the sustainable cities of the future?
– I definitely recommend using nudging as a tool for behavior change. The method can be used in all kinds of areas, and it's also a very creative and fun process. Moreover, it can be adapted to its purpose and therefore doesn't have to be complicated and expensive.

Want to know more?

Katharina Paoli, A Win Win World's Managing Director

Questions about the project? Curious about whether your city can conduct a similar project? Contact our Managing Director Katharina Paoli Brunat.

Ashtrays on bus stops, one camouflaged and one very visible

One is camouflaged, the other is not.