6 insightful and creative solutions to tackle littering

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6 insightful and creative solutions to tackle littering

By Alex Robinson 16th August, 2021

On a sunny weekend last month, Brighton set an unwelcome record: the most litter ever collected from the beach in a weekend. The council scooped up an eye-watering 31 tonnes of rubbish from the beach(1), confirming fears that the end of lockdown, pent up demand from holidaymakers and increased hygiene concerns could lead to a huge surge in litter. Already, over two million pieces of litter are dropped in the UK every day – at a cost of over £1bn to the taxpayer – so it's no surprise that 81% of us say it makes us angry and frustrated. And it’s not just an eyesore: litter contributes to the 8 million tons of plastic that ends up in our oceans every year(2), doing immense harm to marine life.

So, what can we do about it? From our award-winning #NeatStreets campaign back in 2016 to our latest work using AI and drones to map litter in Bournemouth, Hubbub has become a leading expert on how to reduce litter and increase recycling. Our approach is simple, and always starts with fresh insight: we seek to understand a problem in its specific context before we try to tackle it.

Our latest challenge: understanding why young men litter.

Hubbub polling in 2020 found that a third of 16–25-year-old men admitted to littering in the past month, making them the most likely demographic to do so. We wanted to know why, and what can be done to change their behaviour. Our new report, Big Boys Don’t Litter, in partnership with Burger King and Coca Cola, is released today. Some of our findings include:

  • Litterers from this group often have good intentions. One respondent told us: “You want to do the right thing, but bins are always full. Leaving rubbish next to a bin is probably best.”
  • Group dynamics play a big role (and so does alcohol).
  • Why young men are likely to drop litter from their cars.
  • Finger-wagging won’t stop them, but humour and male role models could be effective ways to reach this group.

We’ll be drawing on these insights for our current and future campaigns. While we set to work on that, here are six ways that Hubbub’s insight-gathering has already led to unusual and effective approaches to tackling litter and boosting recycling:

  1. Back in 2015 we spent hours watching revellers during nights out in order to understand cigarette littering behaviours. We realised that we needed to grab their attention by focusing on what interested them. So we made a bin that asked them a question: who is the best footballer in the world? The smokers voted with their butts, and the idea went viral. Nowadays our Ballot Bin is one of the world’s leading cigarette butt litter solutions, proven to reduce litter by nearly 50%.
  2. If you’re confused about what can be recycled where, you’re not alone. For our recent Wimbledon #InTheLoop campaign we ditched the widely misunderstood ‘mixed recycling’ label and asked the public for plastic bottles and cans only. So far this has resulted in 86% of items ending up in the right bin. Simple.
  3. Listening to residents in Oldham as part of a project to tackle fly-tipping, a key theme emerged: they were proud of their neighbourhood. We tapped into this sentiment with our Love Where You Live campaign by helping neighbours to get together and beautify their alleyways together. They achieved much more than simply reducing fly-tipping.
  4. Highway litter is a tough nut to crack. Seeing that many lorry drivers didn’t want to leave their cabs to dispose of their rubbish, we created bins with huge openings to make it easy for them to chuck their bags of rubbish out of the window, and still hit the target. Find out more here.
  5. Our pirate-themed litter campaign, #TreasureYourRiver, features silent disco litter picks and a robot boat on the hunt for lost treasure. Why? Litter-picking can seem a bit earnest, and we’ve learned that first-timers are more likely to get involved in something if it’s fun. If we’re going to hit our target of removing 90 tonnes of litter from our rivers, and prevent another 95 tonnes from entering them, we need all hands on deck.
  6. Bournemouth currently boasts the world’s first Disco Bin: as well as playing the hits, its lights can be seen along the beachfront. Research for our latest #NeatStreets campaign from tech company Ellipsis Earth’s drones showed us that groups of young people were leaving litter on beaches at night. Bins with lights and glow in the dark stickers seek to make it easier to do the right thing. More info – and results when we have them – can be found here.

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