Pioneering a data-led approach to litter reduction

The Brief

In June 2020, over a million people left approximately 40 tonnes of rubbish on Bournemouth’s beaches in a three-day period, with council services overwhelmed and a Major Incident declared.  

Hubbub and Ellipsis Earth delivered an anti-littering campaign from March to August 2021 funded by McDonald’s. Ellipsis conducted the most scientifically robust litter survey ever in the UK, using drone technology and artificial intelligence (AI). This data was used to develop Hububb’s litter-busting interventions in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole’s (BCP) beaches, parks, and urban spaces. 

Barley’s brief was to develop a compelling media campaign to encourage positive behaviour change locally and raise awareness of the campaign nationally to inspire more local councils to follow suit. 

Insights and Approach

With international travel still inaccessible to many over the summer and England only recently out of lockdown, we had the potential to engage and change the behaviour of a larger section of the public than usual.   

The results of three ground breaking surveys were used to grab the target audiences’ attention on social media, and local and national media.  

Over 1.5 tonnes of litter made up of 128,000 individual items were identified in May over the bank holiday and half term, a rise in littering of 476% compared to lockdown levels in March when the first survey was conducted.   

A final survey was conducted in August to measure the impact of the interventions and evaluate their effectiveness.  

We needed to achieve high visibility across a wide array of media to engage the multiple demographics making up the target audiences. We engaged early in the campaign with BBC Click, who were able to follow the impact of the campaign through the different phases. Continued outreach at each point that new data was available helped us secure a wide range of national media. 


The Outcome

Barley achieved 82 coverage items with opportunities to see/hear of over 158 million. Local media covered the campaign extensively from the outset to drive engagement. National coverage including BBC news, a six minute piece on This Morning, The Daily Telegraph, and The Daily Mail, while trade coverage helped drive interest from other retailers and councils. 

The campaign led to a 75% reduction in litter where Hubbub’s interventions were installed, with some locations achieving nearly 90% reductions. In contrast, littering around the approximately 350 standard-style bins saw no decrease.   

 Examples of reductions in specific litter types and performance of individual interventions include:   

  • 73% decrease in cigarette butt litter where ballot bins were placed in targeted tobacco littering hotspots  
  • 88% reduction in glass bottles and aluminium cans thanks to glow in the dark bins.  

The pilot was so successful that it is now considered a blueprint by other councils, including Glasgow City Council, for optimising their approach waste management and combatting littering.   


items of coverage



opportunities to see/hear



reduction in litter (on average)



(nearly) reduction in litter in some areas

It is a joy working with Barley. They combine great strategic insight with an ability to tenaciously deliver results. On top of that they are an absolute pleasure to work with.

Trewin Restorick | CEO and Founder, Hubbub