Reducing Littering in Nepal's National Parks Through Behavioral Incentives and Community Engagement

Reducing Littering in Nepal's National Parks Through Behavioral Incentives and Community Engagement
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

This proposal outlines a project designed to significantly reduce littering in Nepal’s national parks, such as Shivapuri and Nagarjuna National park. It proposes a multi-pronged approach drawing on behavioral science, financial incentives, and community participation. It will be cheap to implement, and easy to validate. Image source: wikipedia


This project proposes a multi-pronged approach to reduce littering in Nepal’s national parks, drawing on behavioral science, financial incentives, and community participation. Firstly, strategically placed “pre-filled” trash cans will act as a nudge, subtly suggesting responsible disposal through the power of social proof. With less subtlety, park rangers and security personnel will remind the entering visitors –pointing at the trash cans – that other visitors like them have had the good manners to clean up after themselves, and they are expected to follow the trend. Second, visitors entering the park will receive reusable trash bags with a refundable deposit, creating a direct financial incentive to dispose of waste properly. Finally, we’ll harness the energy and idealism of local youth by organizing regular clean-up activities in collaboration with schools and colleges, fostering a sense of shared responsibility and environmental stewardship. This multifaceted approach, combining behavioral intervention, financial incentives, and community involvement, offers a promising solution to tackle the issue of littering head-on, ensuring Nepal’s national parks remain pristine havens for all to enjoy.

All three of the proposed solutions are tested and have worked in other civic and private fields, and we are just harnessing existing techniques to align interests to clean our National Parks clean.

1. Executive Summary:

This proposal outlines a project designed to significantly reduce littering in Nepal’s national parks, such as Shivapuri and Nagarjuna, by:

  • Pre-filled trash baskets at entry points: Visually prompting visitors to dispose of waste responsibly through “social proof” and security personnel engagement.

  • Deposit-based trash container system: incentivizing proper disposal through a refundable deposit on containers collected upon park exit.

  • Local youth clean-up initiatives: Fostering community ownership and environmental awareness through collaborative clean-up activities.

2. Problem:

Despite existing measures, visitors often neglect proper waste disposal within national parks, leaving behind plastic bags, food waste, and other debris. This harms the environment, detracts from visitor experience, and incurs significant cleanup costs for authorities.

3. Proposed Solutions:

3.1 Pre-filled Trash Baskets:

  • Large, readily visible trash baskets located at entry points will be pre-filled with a small amount of litter, signifying responsible disposal as the norm.

  • Security personnel will actively point out the pre-filled bins and encourage visitors to follow suit.

  • Estimated cost:Rs. 20,000 for initial batch of trash containers.

3.2 Deposit-based Trash Container System:

  • Upon entering the park, visitors will receive a reusable trash container with a Rs. 100 deposit.

  • Filled containers returned upon exit will earn the deposit back, incentivizing proper disposal.

  • Unreturned containers result in forfeited deposits, serving as a deterrent against littering.

  • Estimated cost:Initial investment in reusable containers (exact cost dependent on chosen material and quantity).

3.3 Local Youth Clean-up Initiatives:

  • Collaborate with schools and colleges to organize regular clean-up activities within the parks.

  • Offer recognition programs (certificates, awards) instead of financial compensation to promote civic participation.

  • Estimated cost:Minimal expenses for supplies and recognition materials.

4. Measurement of Success:

  • Reduced trash collection volume: Measured at park entry/exit points and by forest rangers.

  • Increased visitor feedback: Surveys and feedback forms to gauge positive perception and project awareness.

  • Security personnel feedback: Monitor their observations and engagement with visitors regarding waste disposal.

  • Decline in littering rates: Data collected by forest rangers and park authorities.

5. Implementation Timeline:

Month 1-2: Secure project approval, budget allocation, and purchase initial materials (trash bags, containers).Month 3-4: Train security personnel on project objectives and visitor engagement strategies.Month 5-6: Pilot project implementation, data collection, and visitor feedback.Month 7: Project evaluation and decision on nationwide expansion based on success metrics.

6. Competitive Advantage:

This proposal offers a unique combination of:

  • Behavioral nudges: Pre-filled bins and deposits address unawareness and social norms.

  • Community engagement: Clean-up programs foster ownership and environmental consciousness.

  • Minimal cost burden: Initial investment low compared to ongoing cleanup costs.

7. Long-term Sustainability:

  • Community outreach and education programs to instill responsible waste disposal habits.

  • Collaboration with local businesses to promote reusable alternatives and waste reduction initiatives.

  • Potential revenue generation from unclaimed deposits to support project maintenance and expansion.

8. Supporting Evidence:

  • Aldi cart deposit system: Demonstrates the effectiveness of deposit-based incentives in promoting responsible behavior.

  • Rocky Mountain National Park WAG bag program: Similar program successfully reduced littering by making visitors accountable for their waste.

  • Research on social proof and nudges: Supports the effectiveness of pre-filled bins in influencing behavior.

9. Sustainability Measures:

  • Community outreach and education programs: Instilling responsible waste disposal habits in future generations.

  • Collaboration with local businesses: Promoting reusable alternatives and waste reduction initiatives.

  • Potential revenue generation from unclaimed deposits: Supporting project maintenance and expansion.

10. Conclusion:

This project presents a cost-effective and sustainable solution to the littering problem in Nepal’s national parks. By aligning visitor interests with environmental responsibility through behavioral nudges and community engagement, we can create cleaner parks, enhance visitor experience, and foster a culture of environmental stewardship. We invite the National Parks Department to partner with us on this impactful initiative.

Implementation Plan

Here are the detailed implementation steps for the Deposit-based Trash Container System:


  1. Material Selection: Choose durable, reusable containers that can withstand outdoor conditions and multiple uses. Consider factors like material (e.g., recycled plastic, metal), size, handle design, and branding options.

  2. Cost & Deposit Amount: Determine the initial cost per container and set a refundable deposit amount that incentivizes proper disposal without being prohibitively high. Consider including the deposit cost in the park entrance fee or offering a separate purchase option.

  3. Logistics & Distribution: Establish a system for distributing containers upon park entry (e.g., designated booths, integration with ticketing system). Develop procedures for collecting returned containers and verifying their condition.

  4. Staff Training: Train park staff, security personnel, and volunteers on the program details, including container distribution, collection, refund procedures, and handling potential issues.

  5. Signage & Communication: Install clear and informative signage at entry points, collection areas, and throughout the park explaining the program, deposit amount, and return process. Consider multilingual options for inclusivity.


  1. Launch & Monitoring: Officially launch the program with promotional materials and announcements. Monitor initial participation rates, visitor feedback, and container return rates.

  2. Data Collection: Implement a system to track container distribution, returns, and unclaimed deposits. Gather feedback from staff and visitors through surveys and suggestion boxes.

  3. Adjustments & Refinements: Based on initial data and feedback, make adjustments to the program as needed. This could involve modifying the deposit amount, container design, communication strategies, or logistics.

Long-term Sustainability:

  1. Maintenance & Cleaning: Establish a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule for returned containers to ensure hygiene and functionality.

  2. Inventory Management: Implement a system to track container inventory, manage replacements, and address potential losses. Consider partnerships with local businesses for recycling or upcycling unclaimed containers.

  3. Community Engagement: Partner with local communities and schools to raise awareness about the program and encourage participation in clean-up initiatives or container distribution efforts.

  4. Expansion & Replication: Based on the success of the pilot program, consider expanding it to other national parks or tourist destinations. Share best practices and lessons learned with other stakeholders to encourage wider adoption.


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