Putting it to a vote: Big Ballot Bins go viral

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Putting it to a vote: Big Ballot Bins go viral

By Alex Robinson 21st July, 2023

Seven years ago we asked whether giving smokers a ‘nudge’ could help reduce cigarette litter. That question became the widely celebrated Ballot Bin, proven to cut cigarette litter by half. Now we’re reframing the question to take on all high street waste. Meet the Big Ballot Bin, which has just hit the streets of Manchester and Southampton as part of our new #PickYourSide campaign with KFC and has made quite the splash online.

A sticky kind of problem

More than 20 pieces of litter are dropped per second in the UK, which is about 1800 in the time it’s taken you to read this far. It’s not just an eyesore: much of our litter is plastic (yes, including cigarette butts...) and it pollutes our green spaces and waterways, harms wildlife and often ends up in the ocean where it breaks down into microplastics.

Since the original Ballot Bin, we’ve brought our positive, insight- and data-led approach to help cut litter and boost recycling all over the country, from last year’s Bristol Binning campaign to our community-led (and pirate-themed) work on waterways around the country as part of Treasure Your River. In the summer of 2021, we partnered with environmental tech company Ellipsis Earth, combining our creative approach with their AI-generated, scientific litter maps to reduce litter around interventions by 75% on average (and winning five awards along the way).

Now for our latest trick

We’ve worked with Instrument Industries – the makers of the original Ballot Bin – to create the ultimate voting bin. It’s solar-powered and kitted out with an electronic, flip-dot counter that can ask any question, and counts votes in real time.

In both Manchester and Southampton, it’s the battle of the blockbusters: Barbie is taking on Oppenheimer - referred to by some as #Barbenheimer and by others as #BarBINheimer (mainly us so far, if we’re honest). In Manchester, Noel faces off against Liam, with locals definitively deciding on whether it is a ‘barm’ or a ‘muffin’ (to others, just a humble roll). In Southampton, it's the choice between being stranded on love island or a desert island, while local celebs Scott Mills and Craig David go head-to-head.

But, does it work?

It’s pretty slick: but will it make a difference? #PickYourSide is a collaboration with KFC, Manchester City Council and Southampton City Council to test whether these newly designed Big Ballot Bins can reduce litter on high streets while sparking friendly debates.

We’re interested to see how the debate unfolds and environmental tech company Ellipsis Earth will be independently and scientifically measuring results so we can fully understand the impact of the bins. We’ll share the results at the end of the campaign and the plan is to put the Big Ballot Bin into production so it can be used around the world like its much smaller forebear.

So, can we count on your vote?

We hope to make people in Manchester, Southampton and beyond think differently about litter and put their rubbish where it counts: in the bin. We know that positive, playful ways to engage people on boring issues like litter can cut through and, when rooted in insight and data, have significant impact. It’s an approach we take on our work throughout the waste hierarchy, from litter to recycling to repair and reuse to minimising the use of resources in the first place. If you’re curious or would like to collaborate, do get in touch

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