How Hubbub Built a Boat to Make People Care About London’s Plastic Waste

It’s no secret that the River Thames has a plastic problem. According to the Port of London Authority, more and more plastic waste is ending up in the river every year. The sheer volume of plastic waste is having a devastating impact on marine life. And it isn’t a problem that will just go away.

In January 2018, a series of photographs, taken by Getty Images photographer Dan Kitwood helped to expose the reality of the problem. His pictures showed everyday household items washed up alongside traffic cones, toys and car tyres. They put the amount of plastic waste clogging up the river, fully on display.

But how has it got so bad? Part of the challenge lies in communicating the scale of the problem. Without constant visual reminders like these, people quickly forget about this devastating issue.

The trouble is, getting people to care about big issues is very challenging. You need to be intriguing, creative and bold to stand out from the crowd.

This is where Hubbub came to the rescue, with a genius idea. Read on to find out what they did and how your food start up can learn from Hubbub’s creative approach.

Plastic Overboard! Hubbub to the Rescue

Hubbub are a start-up charity and creative agency. They take a fresh approach to environmental campaigning by engaging a mainstream audience.

Hubbub launched four years ago with £25,000 and a set of clear principles:

  1. To talk to people about things they are passionate about. This includes the food they eat, the clothes they wear, their homes and neighbourhoods.
  2. To collaborate with organisations that share their ambitions.
  3. To measure impact and share results, good and bad. So that others can avoid mistakes and replicate the best bits.
  4. To not be concerned if organisations copy their ideas without acknowledging their role. Delivering positive change is more important than recognition.

So how did Hubbub respond to this plastic crisis? They built a boat!

But this is not just any boat. The Poly-Mer is a vessel made entirely of recycled plastic. As they put it, she’s “the world’s first recycled plastic punt”!

Recycled Plastic To Make A Boat

Canary Wharf College first floated the idea. Led by their head teacher, students had embarked on a series of plastic fishing trips, sailing the Thames to pull out all sorts of junk from the water. When they realised the shocking amount of plastic among this debris, they approached Hubbub for help.

Hubbub wasted no time in getting a crew ‘on board’. Plastic bottles were first collected at the cycling event, RideLondon. These bottles were then taken to the Plaswood recycling site in Dumfries where they were mixed with plastic agricultural waste and transformed into plastic sheets and plastic logs.

Master boat builder, Mark Edwards MBE, then turned these materials into a vessel that holds 12 people. He added a sustainable electric solar engine and the Poly-Mer was born.

Many sources helped to fund the project, including Buxton Water and Sky who included it as part of their #OceanRescue campaign.

There are many lessons to be learned from the way Hubbub went about building their vessel.

By taking Canary Wharf College’s idea, they already had the support of a group of passionate people. This helped to spread the word from the very start. The good nature of their campaign received support of valuable sponsors and experts too. This in turn boosted their profile and credibility.

Fancy a Spot of Plastic Fishing?

Of course Poly-Mer’s purpose was never just to look plastic fantastic. The sustainable vessel has been taking groups out on plastic fishing trips for some time now.

From school groups to team building excursions for businesses, Poly-Mer’s crews have been pulling plastic from the Thames with a passion. The feedback has been so great that Hubbub plan to continue to offer trips to businesses as part of their corporate volunteering scheme. Any funding generated from these will be used to subsidise more school trips. This is a brilliant example of how to engage the community in a project. And the more people you can engage in your creative campaigns, the more people you’ll reach.

But it doesn’t stop there. The plastic that Poly-Mer’s crews collect from the Thames will be used to build more boats. These will be used to fish yet more plastic from the water!

This iterative approach allows the Hubbub team to test out their ideas on a small scale first. This is hugely beneficial, as it allows for improvements during the testing stages. Once any issues have been smoothed out, the campaign can be scaled up. This method can be applied to many other aspects of business too. From advertising and social media campaigns to strategy and product testing.

Hubbub is not only showing people first-hand the scale and impact of plastic in the Thames. It also demonstrates the creative ways that plastic can be repurposed for good. Plus the recycled river vessel is sure to attract attention. This will spark debate with ordinary people and big businesses alike.

What Can We Learn From Hubbub’s Plastic Boat?

If you’re a food or drink brand looking to promote sustainability or a worthy cause, there’s lots to be learned.

Simplicity

Hubbub’s campaign message is simple but effective. It doesn’t need much explaining, meaning it’s easy to communicate.

Fun

Hubbub went a step further and found a solution that was fun. Their creative campaigns offer an approachable solution to an important problem. It sparks conversation and makes people smile, which can only be a good thing.

Reactivity & Relevance

The campaign is responding to a topical problem which is all over the news and very relevant right now. Relevant and reactive projects are more likely to gather attention – particularly from the press. Journalists are always looking for current trends so this is a great way to capitalise and ride a PR wave.

Clarity

The boat is a literal, physical form of the campaign message. The campaign message is carried on the boat itself, demonstrating the importance of strong branding. Passers by are intrigued by the project and are motivated to find out more. When people are actively seeking you out, it means you don’t need to spend as much on marketing. People come to you rather than you having to go find them!

Community

Hubbub’s campaign engaged the community in many ways. It shows there are benefits to listening to ideas from people with different background and points of view. Engage a community of people in your project and you instantly gather supporters who will spread your message.

Brands & Partners

The positive nature of the campaign means that other brands and partners are keen to be involved too. The feel-good nature meant that other big brands wanted to get on board. This boosted the profile of the campaign and helped with the viral spread of the message. If you have a positive message to spread, it will be easier to get support. You’ll also benefit from the reach and influence of your partners.

Testing & Perfecting

Hubbub’s approach is to start with a prototype, test it, iterate and improve. This meant that there was time to test on a small scale before rolling out a larger campaign. This way you can perfect your idea, message, strategy and tactics before seeking a larger audience.

Interactivity

The campaign is interactive and engaging. People see others taking part and they want to get stuck in too. Always look for ways to make your creative campaigns interactive to boost engagement. This will help increase your reach and spread your message far and wide.

There’s a lot of great lessons to be learned from Hubbub. But you don’t need to go overboard to get people to notice your brand! A simple, smart and unique idea can really create waves.

For more inspiration, check out Hubbub’s brilliant Vegcurious campaign for Eating Better. Or listen to our podcast interview with Hubbub’s Tessa Tricks. Tessa is one of the creative partners behind their Meat Your Match campaign.

And remember:

  • Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best
  • Make your campaign interactive where possible
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of fun!
  • Make your campaign reactive and relevant
  • Make your campaign message clear and simple to explain
  • Engage the relevant people and communities
  • Engage relevant brands and partners
  • Testing makes perfect
  • Make it interactive
  • Provide a solution to a real problem