It has been almost two years since Hubbub was launched and we have been reflecting on our approach and listening to the views of others. We know our work on litter has started attracting concerns from the NGO sector. There are three themes emerging. What you are doing is not scalable, you are a mouthpiece for industry and you should be advocating deposit return schemes as these will make more impact than your campaigns. It is good to have this sort of debate and our response is below.

Yes, but is it scalable

Our campaigns - such as Neat Streets - have been described as expensive and not scalable. We have been totally explicit about costs and it is true some activities are expensive. Whenever you try anything different and have to commission new prototypes such as voting bins, design costs will be high. We are also committed to independent evaluation and this pushes up costs.

Some items didn’t work. We explained why in our published assessment and we wouldn’t recommend that anybody copy them. Others have been successful and can be replicated. Some of these are low cost such as chalking chewing gum and creating street galleries. Others are potentially more expensive and we have created a social enterprise to enable these to be delivered at scale and at a lower price. A great example is the outdoor ashtray Ballot Bin which we can now produce for under £200. In the first two months 180 have been sold around the world.

We have also been encouraged that people have taken our ideas and copied them. The City of Boston has installed their own version of the Ballot Bin across the municipality, Cornwall produced their own version of our Message Bin a Bottle video and the London Borough of Sutton ran a version of Neat Streets which cut litter in the high street by 22%.

In short, elements of what we do are highly scalable and we envisage this list will grow as we test more approaches. We will do all we can to help people copy the best elements, either for free or via our social enterprise. Our pilot tests will always look expensive as this is the nature of prototypes. However, we will be totally open about costs and will independently measure, hopefully saving others time and money.

You are a mouthpiece for industry

Our work on litter is exclusively funded by the private sector and this has lead to accusations that we are a mouthpiece of industry. You are slightly dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t on this one. Most NGOs believe industry should be paying for solutions but if you follow this model you are accused of dancing to the voice of industry.

Hubbub has a strong and experienced board of trustees who guide activities and we have already turned down work with industry partners because we didn’t feel it was environmentally credible. All our litter campaigns have been informed by on-the-ground research and we are totally independent in the campaigns that we select to operate.

I know this will not appease external voices of concern but the long-term credibility of Hubbub depends on the authenticity of our activities and none of us within the charity will jeopardise this.

Deposit Return Schemes

We have been told we should be campaigning for deposit return schemes by groups who believe this approach to be effective. We are a team of 8 people and we decided from the outset to play to our strengths, which are running effective public engagement campaigns. There are many other organisations which have great policy and lobbying skills and there is no reason for us to duplicate their efforts.

We run behaviour change campaigns because we think that people should be encouraged to stop all forms of littering, from bank receipts through to fast food packaging. Deposit return schemes cannot be introduced for every form of litter that is dropped, so our behaviour change approach has legitimacy. If deposit returns schemes or other policies are introduced they might further support these behaviour change campaigns. Behaviour change and policy instruments are not mutually exclusive.

We welcome a robust and healthy discussion on our strategy and will happily engage in an on-going debate on any of the above.