Fish: Our Secret Weapon Against Litter

Alex Robinson, managing director for Hubbub Enterprise says the marine environment and plastics debate sparked by Blue Planet is a powerful hook for litter campaigns. Here, looks at two of Hubbub’s recent campaigns…

Last summer I spent a day in Brighton watching people stumble across an enormous sculpture of a fish, made entirely from rubbish from local beaches. I heard all sorts of responses from kids, pensioners, students, tourists – the promenade was packed with people from every walk of life.

Almost all of them reacted strongly to the artwork and its messages: 35% of fish off the coast of Britain have plastic in their guts, and 80% of ocean plastic comes from the land. In other words: fish are full of plastic, and it’s all our fault!

Stemming The Tide Of Marine litter

Hubbub has been running award-winning litter campaigns since our #NeatStreets work in Westminster raised the bar in 2014. We have shown that positive, playful, inventive campaigns can have a huge impact. But litter remains a sticky, unglamorous problem, often seen as an issue for enforcement rather than encouragement and innovation.

Blue Planet II has helped to shift perceptions. The series has not only raised awareness of the impact of our waste on wildlife, it has motivated people to think about and change their behaviours.

Blue Planet II has helped to shift perceptions. The series has not only raised awareness of the impact of our waste on wildlife, it has motivated people to think about and change their behaviours. It’s a huge opportunity for those of us working to stem the tide of litter, as two of our recent campaigns demonstrate.

Brighton & Hove Council engaged Hubbub to develop a litter campaign throughout the summer last year. We developed Streets Ahead, a campaign that showed how litter travels from the land to the sea, and inspired locals and tourists alike to look after the seafront.

While Streets Ahead was keeping litter out of the sea, we also launched For Fish’s Sake, or #FFSLDN, which focused on the River Thames, right on Hubbub’s doorstep. #FFSLDN highlighted the link between the city streets and the water: three-quarters of the 300 tonnes of rubbish pulled out of the Thames each year is food and drink related.

A Powerful Hook

Both campaigns engaged huge numbers of people and generated extraordinary amounts of positive media coverage. Features in the Evening Standard and on ITV News, among many others, helped to create 121 million opportunities to see the London campaign. The #FFSLDN hashtag had a reach of 8.1 million.

In Brighton, 85% of residents polled by an independent researcher said they ‘loved’ Streets Ahead. What’s more, the local community got directly involved with on-the-ground activities. A total of 11 volunteer groups, 26 businesses and over 1,300 individuals took part in the campaign.

So why are these campaigns so popular and newsworthy? Here are some ideas:

  1. Promoting the marine environment makes people care much more about a campaign. We all feel more emotional connection to fish than to litter!
  2. Our rivers and oceans are also a source of inspiration for the campaigns. From grate art to our ‘Catch of the Day’ stall in Borough Market, Hubbub’s creative interventions stand out even more than usual.
  3. Marine litter and the impact of plastics are among the most talked-about issues of the day. These campaigns make those issues locally relevant and offer a chance to make a difference.
  4. Last but not least: marine litter campaigns have a real impact. Litter in our test area around London Bridge dropped by a third during #FFSLDN. People often say they drop litter because there’s no bin at hand, and our campaign made 2 in 5 people more likely to hold on to their rubbish until they found a bin.

So What’s Next?

We recommend that councils, BIDs and businesses with a litter problem ride the current wave of support for initiatives that protect our waterways and oceans. Our campaigns can be adapted for any town or city, and we are happy to share what worked (and what didn’t). Just get in touch and we can send you more information and the relevant impact reports.

In the meantime, we have second phases in the works for both For Fish’s Sake and Streets Ahead. If you live in West London or support Brighton & Hove Albion AFC you can expect to see and hear more in the near future.


Darrel Moore

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