Fleegulls are the world’s first seagull-deterrent trash bags. The design of the bags follows a set of design principles abstracted from research-based insights about seagull behaviour. The ultimate objective was to reduce seagull numbers in urban areas without requiring a mass cull of the birds.

The background to the project was a serious problem experienced in Dublin’s Temple Bar district. Visitors and tourists who frequent Temple Bar bring much needed wealth into the city – but also huge amounts of food waste. Packed with restaurants and bars, Temple Bar is often packed with black rubbish bags that attract seagulls. The birds nest locally and have adapted to identify the bags as a plentiful source of food. They tear the bags apart, spilling waste onto the streets, making the place look and smell awful.

Dublin City Council were considering a mass seagull cull. But we felt there might be a simpler, more humane way to solve the seagull problem. Searching for a behavioural solution, we carried out extensive research on the birds themselves and discovered there are certain visual stimuli that seagulls hate. One study pointed us towards seagulls’ dislike of concentric circles. The hypothesis is that they perceive these as being the eyes of birds of prey and so are frightened by them. We also discovered that seagulls are incredibly sensitive to movement and can spook easily in this regard. They also have an inherent dislike of the colour red, and their eyes see a range of colours that humans can’t, including light in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum.

By combining our research into a set of design principles, we were able to create the world’s first seagull-deterrent trash bags. The design elements are key to the solution:

1. The red colour that deter the birds
2. The concentric circular shapes look like predators’ eyes
3. The abstract pattern mimics movement, spooking the birds
4. The UV ink unnerves the seagulls further

We tested the Fleegulls bags in several sites around the Temple Bar area. Where tested, trash spills from seagulls in Dublin city centre was reduced by 74%.