The most scientifically robust litter survey ever undertaken in the UK took place over May half term across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole using drone technology and AI. The results support the award-winning beaches of the BCP region in addressing litter behaviors as the resort prepares for a busy summer season and influx of visitors.
Thanks to funding from McDonald’s and their suppliers, the cutting-edge survey which took place over seven days, has provided unprecedented insight into the type of litter that’s being dropped, where and when across the region. The intelligence gathered from the drone data is helping inform street cleaning schedules and the placement of litter-busting interventions in the area’s green spaces, streets and beaches.
Early data from the surveys collected shows:
- Over 123,000 items were identified over the 7 days of half term, up from 22,266 in the March survey (454% increase)
- The top 3 items littered (in terms of number of items) were:
- Cigarettes – 47,467
- Paper (such as receipts and napkins) – 32,678
- Plastic fragments (eg. bits of plastic bottles, corners of confectionery wrapping, plastic that seagulls have pulled apart) – 6,578
- 6,977 items of litter (5.7%) were family-related items, including 370 toys, 342 wet wipes and 147 juice cartons
Putting bins in the right place and emptying them regularly is only half of the challenge – getting people to use them can be the real conundrum. Environmental charity Hubbub has unveiled a range of playful initiatives to make the area’s bins more engaging and noticeable; from glow in the dark bins and the world’s first disco bin that lights up and plays music, to bins where you can vote with your rubbish and a Catch of the Day spoof fishmonger stall which will pop up at weekends. Signage will lead people to the next nearest bin if one is full and ballot bins will tackle cigarette butts in hotspots based on data from Ellipsis Earth’s trash treasure maps.
Last month Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole beaches retained their award- winning blue flag status and are proud to have more blue flags than any other UK authority. BCP Council is urging both residents and visitors to help do their part to keep the litter levels down and protect the environment.
Scientists from Ellipsis Earth used the drone technology in the Italian town of Sorrento last summer, where it was hailed a huge success – enabling authorities to reduce litter by 45% and cigarette butt waste by 69%. Based on the data collected this was done through communication campaigns with visitors and business owners and strategically placing new litterbins and ash trays across the town.
A further survey in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole will take place in August to assess the effectiveness of the actions taken.
Councillor Mark Anderson, Portfolio Holder for Environment, Cleansing and Waste, BCP Council said: “It’s great to be the first UK destination to work alongside Hubbub and Ellipsis Earth in gathering data and understanding people’s littering behaviours. Even though we have miles of award-winning beaches the ongoing stats and subsequent results will certainly help us to look at our bin locations and refuse logistics on the seafront, in our open spaces and town centre locations.”
Trewin Restorick, CEO and co-founder of Hubbub said: “The litter survey has provided us with fascinating insight into where litter is being dropped and when across the region. The challenge now is to get more people noticing and engaging with the bins. We’re trialling a range of ideas, experimenting with messaging, colour and playful interaction – such as installing voting bins where users cast their vote on a changeable topic.
“We’re looking forward to analysing the impact of these interventions when the third survey is carried out later in the summer. Our ultimate aim is to learn and share our findings with other local authorities across the country to help them tackle this challenging issue.”
Helen McFarlane, Senior Sustainability Consultant for McDonald’s, said: “McDonald’s is committed to preventing litter in our communities, and we are delighted to be partnering on this innovative campaign. We’ve been collecting litter in the communities we serve for nearly 40 years, but we know that there’s a small minority of our customers who dispose of our packaging irresponsibly and we want to encourage them not to litter. We hope that this ground-breaking campaign will help encourage people across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to dispose of their packaging more responsibly so we can all enjoy the outdoors litter free.”
Ellie Mackay CEO and founder of Ellipsis Earth said: “We’re thrilled to be able to deliver this UK-first smart survey in Bournemouth. We’re using drones, fixed cameras and mobile and vehicle technology to create detailed litter maps, identify hot spots and build an understanding of how the litter is travelling. The data we provide is not only highly accurate but also extremely detailed, allowing us to develop specific, targeted recommendations for BCP, Hubbub and McDonald’s to be able to focus their efforts with maximum effect. We have seen proven success of this approach around the world and we aim to demonstrate the power of this method for the BCP region as well as its potential to extend to other UK councils.”
The data also showed:
- Over 1.5 tonnes of litter identified in 7 days, including over half a tonne of glass bottles
- Plastics were identified as having the longest-term impact on the environment
- PPE only made up 0.7% of total litter
- More food sachets (1,677) were identified than plastic bottles (1,530). Sachets are another Covid-related trend which is problematic for the environment
McDonald’s suppliers Britvic, Seda and Huhtamaki are also funding the project.
Local businesses and communities are being encouraged to support the campaign – from organising litter picks to amplifying messages on social media and can get in contact here for more information: email@example.com