#8. Beyond the Hashtag

Combating Plastic Pollution with Behavioural Science

May 2024

Even if April’s Earth Month trends less and Mzansi’s May elections trend higher, the impact we have on our environment is always on trend – and plastic pollution is the hot madumbi. Behaviour science offers powerful tools to tackle this heated challenge head-on, SA-style, by helping us rewire our routines and nudge ourselves and our communities towards a greener future, whilst we tackle the systemic and economic drivers of pollution.

#1 | Hack the Plastic Habit Loop

Our brains love habits for efficiency – they're always looking for shortcuts! Charles Duhigg's Habit Loop breaks it down into: cue, routine and reward. We can tsipa-tsipa plastic dependence away by hacking the loops 1time!


Thirst! Ditch the plastic: keep a reusable bottle in sight and on hand.


Going shopping? Take your reusable or recyclable shopping bags with you. 


Treat yourself for making green choices, like sipping a post-victory dance smoothie through a glass straw in your fav reusable cup.

These little nudges make it easy to choose the eco-friendly option without feeling like you're being forced to.

#2 | The Power of Cool

When we see people we respect ditching plastic and joining in on plastic-free challenges, it's like a vuvuzela blasting out, ‘Come rock the kasi with us!’ It’s like kuier-ing with the cool kids and encourages us to iigga & jive with them on the energy-saving electric bandwagon. 

#3 | Catch a Wake-up Call

Trues-bob! We’re wired to hate losing stuff more than gaining things. Think less 'sustainability is awesome’ and more ‘what's at stake if we don't ditch our plastic habit!’ So let's focus on what we're losing instead – like the scary fact that there might be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. 

#4 | Making Sussed Easier

Simple tweaks can make a big difference! Imagine if: Your favourite corner cafe offers a schweet discount if you bring your own blikkie. Or you're at the grocery store, and bam! Reusable bags at the checkout, ready for you to grab. These little nudges make it easy to choose the eco-friendly option without feeling like you're being forced to. 

#5 | Empowering Action

Knowledge is key to behaviour change. Sharing smart content about the lifecycle of plastic, its impact on the environment and available alternatives enables people to make informed choices – nudge by nudge.

Final thoughts…

Behavioural science tools can reframe the plastics narrative, leverage social influence and help us build better habits that make sustainable choices the easiest option. Together, we can create a healthier planet for ourselves and future generations. 

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