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 partnered with tech company Ellipsis Earth who use cutting edge drone and AI technology to accurately identify up to 47 kinds of litter. They created the most scientifically robust litter map ever seen in the UK which showed exactly where and when litter items from plastic bottles and bags to cigarette butts and bottle caps were left.

Eyes in the sky

This amazing level of insight provided an unprecedented understanding of what was happening on the ground in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. It meant we could collaborate with BCP Council to introduce targeted litter-busting interventions where they were 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 lockdown 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 introduced proven behaviour change interventions to strategic locations across BCP Council and tested new experimental ideas with the aim of reducing litter across town centres, beaches and green spaces.

We aimed to shift littering 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 also ran 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 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).

Data driven interventions reduce litter by 75%!

Ellipsis Earth conducted a final litter mapping survey at the end of August, to measure the impact of Hubbub's interventions. The findings of this independent scientific measurement were striking:

  • Where Hubbub interventions were positioned according to Ellipsis Earth data, litter reduced by 75% on average in surrounding areas.
  • When Hubbub's Ballot Bins were placed in data driven cigarette litter hotspots, cigarette litter reduced by 73%.
  • We ran an A/B test at the comparable East and West sides Bournemouth Pier. The West side had no interventions and there was a 0% reduction in litter. The East side featured colourful bins and cheeky glow in the dark messages for evening beachgoers and generated a 79% reduction in litter.
  • The world's first Disco Bin led to a 42% reduction in litter in the surrounding area.

McDonald's funded the campaign and local restaurants used the data to find littering hotspots, making their daily litter picks more effective: "We are already collecting more litter in less time", Operations Manager, McDonald's, Boscombe.

As well as Hubbub's playful interventions, a more traditional communication campaign using provocative messaging was run by BCP Council in parallel. Interestingly, Ellipsis Earth's independent measurement found that areas in close vicinity to the negative messaging actually saw a 10% increase in litter on average which demonstrates the effectiveness of positive messaging over a finger wagging approach.

Ellipsis Earth's full scientific report can be found here: 

Read our full impact report below: 

What happens next?

We plan to build on what we've learnt and create a successful template for tackling litter that can be scaled and repeated across the UK. This initial trial campaign in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole aims to be the first of many, and we are actively looking for progressive councils to work with on future Neat Streets campaigns in the future.

This pioneering campaign has been made possible thanks to funding from McDonald's, Britvic, Seda and Huhtamaki.