Cast your vote

While walking through Southend-on-Sea recently, I finally managed to catch sight of Hubbub’s Ballot Bins in the wild. I had been aware of these for a while and thought they were a brilliant idea; indeed, it’s something that has been suggested that Chippenham try out.

What do I like about them? They’re bright: there is no playing hide and seek with them on a High Street and they make the point that this is where cigarette waste belongs. They’re fun: by letting people vote on things, it makes it a slightly more engaging way of soliciting an opinion. They’re see-through: this helps highlight how much waste is produced by cigarettes.



Can you imagine all of this left on the ground? If you’ve been following LitterWatch2017, you’ll know that the cigarette butts that have been out in all weather since 1st January haven’t changed at all: they still look brand new. This is why it is so important that cigarette waste is dealt with appropriately, either disposed of in a designated bin or put in a portable ashtray.

In Chippenham, the opportunities for Ballot Bins are (practically) endless:

  • Betting shops: United or City? Bins can be used to advertise upcoming games outside shops, and perhaps test out the wisdom of the crowds.
  • Pubs: Fun questions about popular culture could help reduce cigarette litter at pub entrances.
  • Good Energy: There is a particular corner between Good Energy and Monkton Park where piles of cigarette butts end up. I’m not sure how much is caused by employees and how much just by passing traffic, but this seems like an excellent opportunity for Good Energy to put out a bright yellow ballot bin in their company colours with weekly questions about renewables and the environment. It’s litter management and a focus group all in one.
  • Council Buildings: Much like Good Energy, there are areas near various Wiltshire Council Buildings and Monkton Park where cigarettes butts are known to congregate. Questions related to Chippenham or Wiltshire could be used.

As with anything, there are risks that need to be mitigated with something like this. After all, when trying to form any positive habit, it’s not possible to just set and forget it. Instead, active management by the places with bins is paramount. The questions need to be updated on a regular basis to maintain interest, and someone has to take responsibility to see that bins get emptied. Sharing the results of the previous Question of the Week (or Month) should be considered, whether through an internal newsletter, blackboard sign, or digital display. Just a little bit of time and thought could lay the groundwork for big changes.

Defacement of the bins is another risk that has to be taken into account, and one I don’t have an easy solution for. Learning from the experience of places who have already installed bins perhaps? Regardless, when it comes to keeping communities clean, it seems that an occasional risk is worth taking.

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