Leaving only footprints

Hubbub is delighted to announce a ground-breaking anti-littering campaign supported by McDonald’s and their key suppliers, using drone technology and AI. The aim is to help Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council tackle litter during what is anticipated to be a very busy summer period as lockdown restrictions ease.  

‘Leave only Footprints’ will help tackle the scourge of litter in what will be the most technologically advanced litter survey ever undertaken in the UK.  The unique approach will see intelligence gathered from drone data to inform the future placement of bins, street cleansing schedules and behaviour change campaigns to encourage people to dispose of their litter responsibly.    

Thanks to funding from McDonald’s and their suppliers, cutting-edge technology will identify and categorise individual pieces of litter, to give unprecedented insight into what types of litter is being dropped where and when.

How will the technology be used to gather data?

The campaign will use drones, fixed cameras and mobile and vehicle technology in public spaces to create detailed litter maps, identifying hot spots and building an understanding of how the litter is travelling. The approach, developed by technology start-up Ellipsis Earth, was used in the Italian town of Sorrento last summer, where it was hailed a huge success - enabling authorities to reduce litter by 45% and cigarette butt waste by 69%.    

Insights into littering behaviour are vital to make the most of the considerable budgets invested by councils up and down the country to tackle the scourge of litter. This summer the Council will be able to use intelligence from the monitoring to inform the strategic placement of bins and street cleaning schedules. Hubbub will use the data to develop a range of behaviour change interventions encouraging the public to dispose of their litter responsibly.  

Litter-busting interventions  

The first drone flights took place last week during a period when the majority of lockdown restrictions were in place to show how clean our streets, parks and beaches can be if we care for the local area. The audit will be repeated in May when the area will be busier as the weather improves and further lock down restrictions ease. 

This data will inform a series of litter-busting interventions over the course of the summer and a further survey will take place later on to assess the effectiveness of the actions taken.  The data collated by Ellipsis Earth regarding litter trends, hotspots and behaviour will play a vital role in the development of BCP’s long-term strategy. 

The investment for the campaign has been provided by McDonald’s along with some of their key packaging and drinks suppliers. The company has been carrying out litter patrols in communities for nearly 40 years and view this this intervention as a significant step-change using high quality data to not only make clearing litter more impactful, but to help improve behaviour and encourage those people who do litter to act more responsibly.

For BCP Council the campaign enhances their preparations to ensure that beaches, town centres, parks and open spaces are ready for locals and visitors alike to enjoy the spaces. This already includes tripling the size of bins to deal with the additional waste and putting in place more daily collections, with manual crews on standby when the locations such as the promenade become busy.  

How to get involved

From Hubbub’s perspective, the intention is to create a campaign in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole that brings in a wide range of collaborators and we are calling on any organisations with a presence in the area to contact us to see how they can get involved.


In the long-term we hope that the results from the campaign can be used to help central and local government develop new approaches to reducing litter helping to create a cleaner environment for us all.

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