FIGURES from the “most scientifically robust litter survey” ever undertaken in the UK suggest that drone technology has helped to cut litter in hotspots across Bournemouth by 75 per cent.

The groundbreaking trial, led by scientists at Ellipsis Earth, saw the rollout of glow-in-the-dark bins, voting bins and positive messaging in a bid to crackdown on litter on the seafront and across the region,

The trial, which has taken part in three phases throughout the year, used drones and AI to identify litter hotspots in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to build an understanding of how litter was travelling across the area.  

The interventions that proved most successful with residents and visitors in Bournemouth were the glow-in-the-dark bins, which saw an 88 per cent reduction of glass bottle and aluminum cans littered in the vicinity, and ballot bins, where an average reduction of 73 per cent of cigarette butts was recorded, when placed in targeted locations.  

Bournemouth Echo: Heat map showing litter in central Bournemouth

CEO and founder of Ellipsis Earth Ellie Mackay said: "We are delighted to be able to provide this robust data on such a large scale to evaluate the success of Hubbub's innovative and creative interventions, and to demonstrate the power of data-driven campaigns.

“Our aim is to help all stakeholders - brands, campaigners and councils alike - to maximise the impacts of their efforts so that every penny and every hour spent on improving waste management is spent intelligently.

“The results of this campaign clearly demonstrate the importance of fully informed decision-making and we hope to inspire other councils to step up to the challenge and join the data-driven litter revolution." 

The three surveys took place between March 8 and March 28, May 27 to June 2 and August 19 to August 25. Results were taken over a seven-day period across 18 sites across BCP conurbation, including urban, green spaces, waterfront and beaches.

Bournemouth Echo: Drone image identifying litter on the beach - Credit Ellipsis Earth

Other findings showed that the east side of Bournemouth Pier, where multiple interventions were placed, saw a reduction in litter of 79 per cent.

In stark contrast, the west side, where no interventions were placed, had zero reduction.

Large brightly coloured bins helped reduce litter in Bournemouth Lower Gardens by 89 per cent when they were brought in to supplement existing small, closed bins which had previously been the worst performing bins in the region.

Thanks to funding from McDonald’s, and its suppliers, the intelligence gathered from the cutting-edge technology, enabled environmental charity Hubbub to identify areas in need of specific litter-busting interventions.  

CEO and co-founder of Hubbub Trewin Restorick said: “We’re blown away by the results of this project. This is game changing for the way we tackle litter in our urban, green and coastal areas across the country.

“The results are conclusive – the key to reducing litter is to get robust localised data and use positive and playful messaging.” 

Bournemouth McDonald’s, which carries out daily litter patrols, used the data to find littering hotspots making their clean ups more effective.  

Bournemouth Echo: A voting bin near Bournemouth beach

Senior Sustainability Consultant for McDonald’s Helen McFarlane said: “We want to take that next step to try and prevent littering in the first place, which is why we funded this innovative project.

“We’re really proud of the impact that it’s had across Bournemouth, by tapping into big data we’ve made small changes that make it easier for us all to do the right thing.” 

“We want to thank everyone, especially McDonald’s customers, who used one of our bins this summer. With your help we’ve been able to help make Bournemouth a cleaner, tidier place to live and visit.” 

BCP Council say they will use the data to help with waste provisions in the town, alongside some of their ongoing projects.

Bournemouth Echo: Wheelie bin with positive messaging on Poole Quay

Portfolio Holder for Environment, Cleansing and Waste Councillor Mark Anderson said: "It was great to be the first resort in the UK to work with Hubbub and Ellipsis Earth to track litter using drones and AI technology and support our already award-winning beaches.

"The final data will certainly be useful for the Durley Environmental Hub project and more widely for the town’s operations teams and will certainly link in to BCP Council’s Cleaner, Greener, Safer Initiative.

"This aims to get the basics right for residents so they can have a sense of pride in where they live and in the last six months this has seen an increase in litter bins, including on the beach, a tree planting programme and additional Community Safety Accredited Scheme (CSAS) Officers recruited.”