Skip to main content

Tackling the litter emergency to protect our wild isles

A blog post by Barry Fisher

Of all the environmental challenges we face, removing litter from our streets, countryside and coastline should be one of the easiest to inspire, empower and support people to tackle.

Our annual Spring Clean has brought thousands of people together from all sections of society over the past two decades to make a difference to the places that matter to them.

Sadly, despite this huge mobilisation of volunteer action in every local authority area in Scotland we know from our annual surveys that there is a litter emergency in Scotland – with 67% of people believing that litter is a problem in their local area, and 87% thinking it is a problem across Scotland.

This matters.  Litter threatens Scotland’s wildlife, habitats and ecosystems on land and at sea and it contributes to the global marine litter crisis.  The recent David Attenborough series ‘Wild Isles’ showcases the urgent need for us to step up and protect the animals and plants we share our country with. 

Without the commitment of people across the country things could be far worse - we know that litter free and well-maintained areas are considerably less likely to attract more litter, which is why it is so important that clean-up activities take place throughout the year alongside prevention and behaviour change campaigns. 

We have welcomed a number of major policy and societal developments in recent years, including introducing a ban on single use plastics, a review into the environmental impact of single use vapes and a commitment to a deposit return system. but we unapologetically continue to call for a more strategic and collaborative approach to addressing our litter problem.

One way to approach the global litter challenge is by transitioning to a circular economy, designing out waste which could end up as litter.  By thinking about what we actually need and by recycling, reusing and disposing of waste properly, we can protect our environment from excess waste and the potential for litter.

But we need action on the ground too – and now.

This is why we are calling for people to get involved in Spring Clean between 17 March and 17 April.  A litter pick can be fun.  It helps improve our sense of community cohesion, it gives us a sense of belonging and a purpose of empowerment and wellbeing.

A litter pick can also focus minds on the waste we generate, our own consumption, and encourage us to take simple steps towards becoming more sustainable.

This Spring is the perfect time to take action on litter.  Our individual actions can help transform the places we care about, improving our communities, protecting our wildlife and ultimately stopping the tide of plastic from further damaging our oceans. 

This year, we want to inspire volunteers to join us and take action.  We already have 12,000 volunteers signed up, so whether you are in Paisley or Lerwick why not get involved and be part of the solution.  Support is available here.

Small steps can trigger huge change. By starting with one of the simplest actions of all - picking up litter - we can each contribute to securing cleaner co

We support the