To design a successful solution, it helps to first have a real understanding of the problem. And to get a fresh perspective, it can help to zoom out and take an aerial view.

Litter is one of those problems that we know exists all around us but is hard to understand fully from the ground. That’s why we’ve partnered with tech company Ellipsis Earth who have used drones and machine learning to accurately identify up to 47 kinds of litter. They have created the most scientifically robust litter map ever seen in the UK showing exactly where and when litter items from plastic bottles and bags to cigarette butts and bottle caps are left.

Eyes in the sky

This amazing level of insight gives us an unprecedented understanding of what’s happening on the ground in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. It means we can collaborate with BCP Council to introduce targeted litter-busting interventions where they’re most needed thanks to funding from McDonald's and their suppliers.

Ellipsis Earth conducted an initial test measurement during lockdown in March so we’d get an initial idea of litter patterns. They then created their first full litter map based on data from a week period covering the late May bank holiday when restrictions were largely lifted. The results showed a whopping 454% increase in the total quantity of litter! Even accounting for a doubling in footfall, this still shows a big relative increase in litter.


The top 10 most littered items during a week in May 2021.

From a faux fishmongers to the world’s first Disco Bin

Based on these insights and our own experience, we will be introducing some fun interventions across BCP Council with the aim of reducing litter across town centres, beaches and green spaces.

We have identified three key behaviours we want to change:

  1. Littering by groups at night
  2. Cigarette littering
  3. ‘Tidy littering’

We’re aiming to shift these behaviours through a targeted campaign including a series of exciting bin-novations: glow in the dark bin vinyls to remind night time revellers where to bring their litter (‘lucky bin- use me to make a wish’), voting bins and ballot bins featuring topical questions (is it coming home?) and the world’s first disco bin which lights up and plays music when used!

We’ll also be running a ‘Catch of the Day’ spoof fishmongers stall at weekends throughout the summer to raise awareness of litter’s impact on our oceans in a fun way. The brilliant local litter picking group, the Dorset Devils have provided us with a tasty banquet of freshly caught local litter including Masked Rollmops (PPE fresh from the sea) and Atlantic Spadefish (children’s toys left behind by families).

Measuring impact 

We're lucky to have access to very detailed data in this project, and Ellipsis Earth will be running another litter mapping survey at the end of August, to help measure our impact. We'll be able to see if Hubbub's new bins, messaging and BCP's changes to cleaning procedures have had any effect.

We plan to use our learnings to create a successful template for tackling litter that can be scaled and repeated across the UK. This campaign in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole is a trial that aims to be the first of many, with the next project set to take place in Glasgow in time for COP26.

Want to get involved?

  • Live locally? Follow Leave Only Footprints for ongoing information of local activities and events such as our Catch of the Day stalls. Or get in touch with the Dorset Devils to join a local litter pick.
  • Are you an accidental litter-er? Find out here.

This pioneering campaign has been made possible thanks to funding from McDonald's and its suppliers.