Although most cigarette butts are disposed of properly, too many are casually littered into the environment. The team at Philip Morris Bulgaria are working on creative ways to tackle this problem by encouraging behavioral change.
Through the creation of a campaign called #ChangeThePicture, Philip Morris Bulgaria is raising awareness of the environmental impact littering can have on cities, and what consumers can do to change this. The team officially launched the campaign in the summer of 2021 on 50 of the country’s iconic Black Sea beaches, with an attention-grabbing visual installation.
Change through creativity
There is a thread of creativity that runs through every initiative of the #ChangeThePicture campaign, which helps it resonate more with the public. A key example of this creativity was the collaboration with the National Academy of Theater and Film Arts “Krastyo Sarafov.”
Inspired by the key messages from the campaign, second-year university students from the National Academy of Theater and Film Arts were invited to create a series of short videos on the issue.
In the spring of 2023, following two years of collaboration, the resulting 16 videos were shared, showcasing the university students’ use of audio-visual forms of expression to call upon the public to dispose of cigarette butts properly.
To further support the mission of the #ChangeThePicture campaign, 11 clean-up drives were organized in Sofia, Plovdiv, Blagoevgrad, Varna, Burgas, Stara Zagora, Dobrich, and Ruse in which volunteers, campaign ambassadors, representatives of the media, non-governmental organizations, and municipal authorities took part. In one such event at the end of 2022, a massive 155kg of litter was collected from the Vitosha nature park just outside Sofia, while cleaning around the Kopitoto TV tower and the Dendrarium adventure park.
Also in 2022, a #ChangeThePicture traveling exhibition was launched as a new way to engage the public on the campaign’s message. The exhibition raises awareness in innovative and unexpected ways, and has so far visited Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna, Dobrich, Stara Zagora, Veliko Tarnovo, Ruse, Gabrovo, and Burgas.
Change in action
The team also conducted research and activation events, including one in Sofia in May 2023 with the support of Litterati team. Choosing two similar parks in the city, the team displayed their informative campaign posters and handed out portable ashtrays in one, while the other park was left as a control.
Across the three days of the experiment, the team found that cigarette butts were the most discarded items in both parks, making up 93 percent of all litter. At the end of the research, the test park showed a 56 percent decrease in cigarette butt littering density across the three days of the campaign, while the control park showed a total increase of 10 percent.
In another survey conducted as part of #ChangeThePicture campaign, the team found that 81 percent of the respondents said that their main reason for littering was that there were no bins or ashtrays available nearby. The team also found that 90 percent of participants liked the idea and the design of the portable ashtrays, with close to 80 percent saying they would be happy to use them going forward and that they could be a solution to preventing the littering of cigarette butts in the environment.
This campaign shows how our markets tackle cigarette butt littering at a local level, in alignment with our post-consumer waste management strategy.
“We continue with our plans to evolve the campaign and further boost the awareness that has been generated,” says Dilyana Yakova, Manager Regulatory Aff. & Sustainability, Philip Morris Bulgaria.
“We have already planned similar and upgraded activities for the future, linking our campaign with art festivals and initiatives.”