Foundations for Discussion on the Clean Communities
Assessment Tool: Where to From Here?
Rob Curnow and Karen Spehr
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Why Use A ‘Litter’ Assessment Method Beyond Counting Litter On The
Ground Or Just Observing Disposal Actions?
Most litter prevention programs are based on intervening to change individuals’
motivation, attitudes or knowledge of the impact of litter on the environment. This is
based on evidence that well designed, strategic educational efforts to try and change
attitudes and behaviour are key to reducing the amount of litter present in public places.
They are not the whole picture though, as there are many other influences directly
affecting people’s behaviour in the actual public place environment itself. Along with
awareness levels and promotional and education materials, such factors include
infrastructure (condition and function of furniture, play equipment, landscaping, etc),
BINfrastructure (including maintenance schedules) and the sense of ‘community’ in the
place (cleanness, graffiti, safety, belonging, ownership).
In relation to these factors, it is obvious that efforts to exhort people to change their
behaviour would be largely ineffective. In trying to evaluate and improve litter prevention
efforts, it is therefore important to monitor more than just people’s actions – we need to
assess the key factors in the public place environment that contribute to people’s littering
A variety of litter assessment methods currently exist, each with its own strength and
limitations. Litter counts for example, are quick, cheap and easy to use. Their main
limitations are that they don’t tell you how the litter got there in the first place (i.e. the
effects of wind or scavenging animals can account for a good deal of litter present in a
site) or provide any information about positive disposal actions such as binning or
recycling. They do however, provide some indicator of litter present in a site.
At the other end of the measurement spectrum is the Disposal Behaviour Index (DBI)1
which gives a highly accurate account of positive and negative behaviour. It requires a
high level of expertise to carry out however, and is quite resource intensive.
The CCAT is a rating scale that gives a basic account of positive and negative actions in
a location and includes the additional assessment of various features of the environment
affecting disposal behaviour. It therefore has a valuable function as an ‘action research’
tool as well as performing a basic behavioural monitoring function.
So How Do CCAT Assessments Measure Litter?
CCAT assessments provide a holistic assessment of salient features of a particular
public place environment that are integrally related to the likelihood of further littering.
Assessment factors include infrastructure (condition and function of furniture, play
equipment, landscaping, etc), BINfrastructure (including maintenance schedules), the
sense of ‘community’ in the place (community’s perceived ‘cleanness’, graffiti, safety,
belonging, ownership, etc) and of course a reverse scored ‘litter count’ - referred to as a
1The DBI is the measure used by Community Change and the Beverage Industry Environment Council who has commissioned the
work to track national changes in disposal behaviour since 1997.
‘clean count’ since the higher a CCAT score, the cleaner a public place is, and the
greater the likelihood it will remain clean.
These factors are integrally related, with the CCAT assessment forming an attempt to
move beyond ‘how much litter is in this place’ to ‘how well this place does in relation to
those factors closely associated with littering (including an indication of the actual litter
Included in the CCAT assessment process are basic observations of the littering and
binning actions of people using the public place. Actions scores are not included directly
in the CCAT rating since they are qualitatively different to ratings on infrastructure, sense
of community, etc, but are integral to the total assessment of an area.
To use a case study, an area with high littering and low binning Actions demonstrated
good Context and BINfrastructure ratings but poor Infrastructure ratings (note that these
last three factors comprise the overall ‘CCAT’ rating). On further examination, it was
discovered that recent conflict between traders and council about whose responsibility it
was to maintain the surrounding infrastructure, had led to a general decline in seating
and landscaping facilities and appeared to be the main contributing factor in relation to
high littering Actions.
The ability to examine the various elements contributing to a ‘clean community’ illustrates
the CCAT’s function not merely as a mechanism for monitoring litter, but an action
research strategy for making continuous improvements in attempts to create sustainable
public place environments.
What Does A Change In A CCAT Rating Indicate?
Changes in CCAT ratings reflect the dynamic nature of public place environments.
Improvement or decline in people’s disposal behaviour may be the result of any one or
more of the various factors included in a CCAT assessment. The holistic nature of the
assessment makes it more likely that one or more factors can be identified and acted
upon – or actively reinforced or maintained as the case may be.
The CCAT score is not necessarily linear in its relationship with changes in litter ‘clean’
counts but it is an indicator of what is happening in sites being assessed in a holistic
manner (incorporating a wide range of variables such as attitudes, behaviours, facilities
and litter). The change between one CCAT score and another are linear and the
percentage change can be calculated. Sites evaluated and measured over time can be
assessed as a percentage change of the CCAT score as a holistic measure of ‘clean’.
The CCAT score contains some litter count information but the nature of the CCAT is to
provide a complete picture of attitudes, behaviours and litter rather than simply using
litter counts. A change in the CCAT score is a reflection of change of one or some or all
of the variables which make up the composite CCAT score. A positive change indicates
an improvement in ‘clean’ while a negative change indicates the reverse, i.e. a decrease
Does The CCAT Problem Identification Process Apply Broadly – Beyond
Locations To Types Of Locations?
Yes, while CCAT ratings for a location provide detailed individual outcomes and
recommendations, similar site type outcomes can be combined and broader guidelines
for these types developed.
For example, in a recently completed assessment of disposal behaviour in Alpine ski
resorts during winter, CCAT ratings and problem identification and action statements
were developed for alpine environments generally, for each of the four mountains
studied, and for each type of location assessed, eg, a lift ticket queuing area, a car park
or dry shelter, etc. The level of assessment required varies from project to project and is
typically adapted according to the needs of project partners and other stakeholders.
What About Identifying ‘What Works’ As Well As Problems – Isn’t That
Identifying features that are working well is critical to the ongoing efforts of stakeholders
to sustain positive disposal behaviour. This is especially critical for cigarette butt littering
which has consistently been the most prominent form of littering in Australia, with
smokers much more likely to litter than use butt bins. (A recent exception to this was a
study in Melbourne where smokers were shown to be more likely to do the right thing
A methodology that detects what is working, and can explain why, is important.
Identifying maintenance or cleaning schedules that are working well, or identifying
particularly effective butt bin types (the same bin type may not always work for all
locations), or specific factors giving the area a ‘cared for’ appearance – provides
feedback enabling stakeholders to sustain these strategies with confidence. Continued
assessment on a regular basis also has significant benefits in maintaining stakeholder
motivation and pride.
Table 1 provides broad descriptions of CCAT factors with the interpretation of high and
low ratings for each factor influencing public place disposal actions.
Table 1 CCAT Factors
Factors Factor High Low
Features combined Area is littered,
Summary in a summary Area likely to be clean and contamination of
CCAT score resource recovery successful recyclables is high
Context community identity Sense of pride, ownership Poor sense of ownership
and involvement over the space in area is not clean
Summarises Well maintained, litter free
Facilities results for bins and facilities that are easily used Inadequate facilities
furniture and well positioned poorly maintained
streetscape and Furniture is well maintained Poorly maintained
landscaping clean and appropriate surrounded by litter
Bins design, position and Inadequate number,
All litter, recycling maintenance is appropriate to configuration positioning
and butt bins area and usage patterns or servicing of bins
Public Summary of Area is perceived as well
Perceptions & community views looked after and adequately Area is seen as
Attitudes on area serviced inadequately presented
Views on the area
Attitudes to place
and expected Expectations people to do the No expectation to do the
actions right thing with used items right thing
Perceptions about Facilities are viewed as
appropriateness of appropriate and meeting Community sees a need
bins and furniture needs of community to improve facilities
Observations of People use (litter, butt &
Actions disposal recycling) bins most of the People seen littering &
behaviours time not using BINfrastructure
The summary CCAT score reflects the combined impact of features in a location and
provides a measure for comparing locations and the outcomes of changes that occur as
a result interventions.
What Is The Difference Between ‘Monitoring’ And The CCAT Action
Litter monitoring is often used to track outcomes without determining how those
outcomes came about. An Action Research approach involves project partners collecting
and analysing information from a wide variety of sources (including monitoring of litter on
the ground) to facilitate interventions.
This information is used proactively with project partners to help guide interventions
throughout the project from starting levels (baseline), to immediate impact of
interventions, to longer term follow up. Specific recommendations focusing on
BINfrastructure, community perceptions, and social factors influencing littering can be
developed with project partners to suit local conditions, as well as using universal
approaches to sustainable waste management in public places.
So The CCAT Is More Than Just A Measurement Method?
Yes, in addition to its evaluative function, the CCAT assessment process actively guides
the delivery of interventions aimed at litter prevention. Consultation with stakeholders
involved in program delivery throughout the life of the project enables program
improvements to be made very quickly on the basis of CCAT assessments. Also, the
initial or ‘baseline’ CCAT assessment enables feedback on features of the public place
environment which are working effectively, and simply need to be maintained.
How Does The CCAT Generate Recommendations?
Using a set of principles developed by Community Change to facilitate positive behaviour
in public places, the key environment factors mentioned above can be assessed using
the CCAT. For example, the first principle - ‘Clean equals clean’ - refers to the well
established finding that a clean, well maintained environment leads to less littering and
As well as assessing a location according to whether such features are ‘poor’ or
‘excellent’ (ie, it’s ‘monitoring’ function), the CCAT assessment also identifies problems
and provides clear, specific action statements applying to local public places.
The CCAT is therefore more than a ‘monitoring’ tool – it is an ‘action research method’.
That is, a method of using evaluative information to guide the change process in an
immediate and ‘living’ way – during the litter prevention program itself, as well as beyond.
Can the CCAT be Adapted to Focus in Detail on Disposal Actions?
The CCAT base methodology has been designed to allow for adaptation to generate
detailed site assessments and focused data collection of disposal actions in areas where
behaviour change has been specifically targeted.
Adaptations to the basic benchmark CCAT data collection procedures to suit specific
requirements for observations of behaviour over extended time periods in one location
1. Public Place Recycling Action Score (PPRAS), the basis for recording behaviour
change in response to away-from-home recycling programs at events and in
permanent public place installations. Information is recorded about the actions of
people in a location disposing of items that are potentially recyclable. Currently
used in projects with Brisbane City Council, the Four Alpine Resorts (in association
with North Eastern Regional Waste Management and Gippsland Regional Waste
Management Groups) examining source control and prevention strategies at the
top of water catchments funded by the National Packaging Covenant (NPC) and
EcoRecycle Victoria on refining the Away-From-Home Recycling Guidelines.
2. Cigarette Litter Action Score (CLAS), focuses on cigarette disposal behaviours
over extended periods in projects funded by the Butt Littering Trust, working with
Hobart City Council on a holistic program assessing the links between attitudes,
behaviour BINfrastructure and promotional campaigns; Barwon Regional Waste
Management Group and Victorian Litter Action Alliance examining the impact of an
promotional campaign and education officer in selected locations around the bay;
and, Parks Victoria conducting a trial of an anti-cigarette butt litter program
involving distribution of personal ashtrays to reduce cigarette litter at the Twelve
3. Stormwater Action Score (SWAS), providing an analysis of disposal behaviours
associated with stormwater pollution prevention to establish best practice in
behaviour changes associated with front-of-pipe stormwater interventions with
Monash University CRC for Catchment Hydrology - to provide Moreland City
Council and the Moonee Ponds Creek Litter Initiative with best practice community
and stakeholder-based evaluation of a Victorian Stormwater Action Program-
funded project for reducing stormwater litter loads in a commercial shopping
Issues Arising from Recent Projects
Current CCAT projects have raised a number of issues that, when resolved, will be
incorporated into tool’s development (and eventually into training programs) including:
The use of local and relevant averages for comparison of outcomes and delivery
of meaningful recommendations. Currently averages across ratings for the main
CCAT factors are used to benchmark the level of clean in a location, town, city,
local government area, a region and a state.
The interpretation of CCAT ratings for each of the factors is the key to tracking
progress after interventions and changes to locations. It identifies the source of
change and its impact on actions - eg, the Flagstaff Hill location in the Highlands
Regional Waste Management Group showed dramatic improvement in CCAT
ratings between winter and summer data collection which was the result of
improvements to infrastructure and BINfrastructure but the long term changes at
the location are unclear.
Developing a method for monitoring improvements to locations between visits –
this will be particularly important for the bi-annual monitoring of changes in litter
and littering and how to track improvements.
Examining the differences between winter and summer benchmarks and the
greater number of actions assessments possible in summer compared to winter.
This issue has implications for future assessments and monitoring of progress
toward achievement of litter reduction targets and reduction in littering.
Developing strategies for ensuring weight and volume measurements of litter in
locations can fit with a CCAT framework. In NSW this involves briefing other
consultants involved in conducting the physical measurements to align data
collection with CCAT information. In Victoria this involves developing a strategy
and testing the procedure with EcoRecycle Victoria aligning audit information to
CCAT data collection frameworks in assessing outcomes from events and
festivals as part of the ongoing refinement of Away-From-Home recycling
Examining potential links between CCAT assessments and illegal dumping.
Isn’t This Approach Just A Reason To Keep Consultants In Work –
Continuing To Do These Assessments?
The CCAT method has been developed in response to many requests for a methodology
that was consistent, practical, and that stakeholders could learn to use themselves. After
basic training, others can potentially adopt this methodology. Community Change is
currently working on training and licensing arrangements that will meet stakeholder
needs while maintaining the integrity of data collection. The plan involves:
Familiarising stakeholders with the methodology by running introductory
workshops discussing litter prevention culture and assisting project partners in
Finalising the training and accreditation procedures for others to use the CCAT