The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Rare have partnered to globally tackle plastic waste management and behaviour change, according to a statement by the UNDP.
The statement added that the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) implemented by the UNDP and the Rare’s Center for Behavior and the Environment (BE.Center) are collaborating on this important initiative.
Rare is an international non-profit organisation specialising in social change for people and the planet. For nearly 50 years, it has partnered with individuals, communities, and local leaders on the frontlines of conservation to promote the adoption of sustainable practices.
This is part of UNDP’s efforts to advance the implementation of its plastics offer and local action service offer. Plastic waste and pollution are now among the greatest threats to environmental sustainability and human health worldwide.
According to a 2020 report from the UNEP, an estimated 12 billion tons of plastic waste is expected to be in landfills and the natural environment by 2050.
The increasing amount of plastic produced has caused a significant waste generation problem that has outpaced society’s ability to manage it effectively.
“There are a multitude of sources causing plastic waste and pollution, and behind each of these sources lies a chain of people and a range of behaviours that have led to the plastic waste and pollution we see today,” said Kevin Green, Vice President of Rare’s BE.Center.
According to him, to achieve the change needed, key actors and practitioners must learn how to integrate behavioural science and behaviour-centred design into their work.
Meanwhile, Sulan Chen, principal technical advisor on plastics of the UNDP, said the plastic crisis is a result of increasing production, demand, and mismanagement of plastics – which are all linked to human behaviour.
“Therefore, to address the problem, we need to apply the latest insights from behavioural science to understand how the human mind operates, what drives their behaviours and group actions, and how to foster benign relationships between human beings and nature.
“UNDP and Rare can lead such an initiative to transfer behaviour change knowledge to actors in environment and development practices in order to foster pro-environmental behaviour,” he added.
According to the partners, traditional behavioural change tactics, such as information sharing, rules and regulations, and financial incentives, must be complemented with strategies rooted in behavioural science.
“Recognising that these traditional levers have generally been insufficient for changing behaviour on their own, Rare’s environmental behaviour change program designers have expanded their toolkit to include a more comprehensive set of levers for a shift in behaviour and achieving environmental outcomes.
“These three novel levers – emotional appeals, social influences, and choice architecture – along with the three traditional levers, represent the Behavioral Lever Framework for categorising behavioural interventions in the environmental field.”
Rare’s work will support the design and implementation of behaviour change programs at national and local levels. These programs will leverage best practices and the latest insights from behavioural science and design thinking and apply those insights directly to managing the plastic waste crisis.
According to the statement, Rare’s team of behavioural scientists will be involved in developing a plastics and behaviour change practical guide and resources that apply behavioural sciences to the challenge of plastic waste.
“Increase national and local capacity to design and implement behaviour change programs that positively impact plastic and waste management.
“And, establish and support an engaged global network of practitioners who can leverage the power of behaviour change to prevent and manage plastic waste sustainably,” the statement read.
This partnership will be implemented through the GEF Small Grants Programme, which recently launched the Plastics Innovation Programme to support communities and local actors to implement 54 mid and upstream focused plastic projects.
These projects focus on a wide range of activities including baseline assessments and mapping of plastic pollution hotspots, awareness raising and advocacy; development of municipal and national plastic strategies/regulations, and the manufacturing of sustainable alternatives and material redesign.
According to Yoko Watanabe, Global Manager of SGP, the programme is excited to partner with Rare and apply behaviour science to effectively manage plastic waste from the source, and possibly replicate the approach to other community-based projects supported by the SGP.