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Why Hubbub, Ellipsis Earth and McDonald’s came together to tackle British cities’ litterbugs


By Awards Analyst, writer

December 8, 2022 | 6 min read

Hubbub, Ellipsis Earth, McDonald's and Barley Communications won at The Drum Awards for Social Purpose 2022 in the Best Environmental Campaign for its ‘Neat Streets’ initiative. Here, we find out more about what went into this successful campaign.

Neat Streets

On average, there was a 75% reduction in litter where Hubbub’s interventions were installed

In June 2020, during an untimely combination of lockdown frustration, ongoing pub and restaurant closures and heatwave weather, over a million people descended on the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) coastline over three days. Approximately 40 tonnes of rubbish accumulated on beaches alone, with council services overwhelmed and a Major Incident declared. The local council approached environmental charity Hubbub to create a campaign for 2021 that aimed to prevent this from happening again.

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The brief

Hubbub wanted to create a robust approach to litter prevention that could be replicated in other locations around the UK. It partnered with Ellipsis Earth, whose newly developed litter-mapping technology would enable intelligent planning of new infrastructure.

The idea

Ellipsis conducted the most scientifically robust litter survey ever in the UK. Drone technology and AI were used to give unprecedented insight into locations, times and types of litter, and a clear overview of the litter situation across BCP. As well as producing heat maps of the worst-littered locations, the AI was able to identify the type and even the brand of individual items of litter.

A baseline survey was conducted in March 2021 during the lockdown, with the second post-lockdown in May to inform the placement of Hubbub’s litter-busting interventions. A final survey was conducted in August 2021 to measure the impact of the interventions and evaluate their effectiveness.

The survey data was used to develop Hubbub’s litter-busting interventions in BCP’s beaches, parks, and urban spaces. This included a number of steps to target specific litter types and locations in BCP.

Hubbub installed over 40 attention-grabbing interventions to engage different target audiences and change a variety of littering behaviors. For example, in hotspots for cigarette butt littering – using bright ‘ballot bins’ to encourage participatory and playful engagement with responsible disposal.

Detailed data analysis informed a series of recommendations on litter cleaning schedules followed by both the council and McDonald’s, who used insights on litter patterns of its products to change staff litter-picking routes and schedules near to its stores.

The results of the three ground-breaking surveys were used to grab the target audience's attention on social media, and local and national media.

The results

On average, there was a 75% reduction in a 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. Interestingly, the data showed that where negative and accusatory messaging was used in a council-run campaign in the same area there was a 10% increase in litter in areas near this signage, adding evidence to the argument that negative messaging doesn’t prompt positive behavior.

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This campaign was a winner at The Drum Awards for Social Purpose 2022. You can see all the winners here. The Drum Awards for Marketing are currently open for entry. Find out how you can enter now.

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