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Alone we do so little; together so much

A blog post by Laura Watson

As we prepare to release the 2024 #SpringCleanScotland report, our Campaigns Officer Laura Watson reflects on another brilliant year and the power of working together.

“Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

Litter can be quite a contentious issue. In Scotland, when it comes to litter, most of what you will read or hear will be negative. Even at Keep Scotland Beautiful the word litter is often followed by the word emergency.

Some people argue that it’s a matter of personal responsibility and that everyone should dispose of their waste properly to maintain a clean environment. Others believe that systemic changes, such as better waste management infrastructure and public education are necessary to address the problem. Regardless of stance, Scotland’s litter emergency often invokes negative opinions and emotions which is counterproductive to tackling the issue.

I do empathise with those who feel frustrated and perhaps even angry over the situation though. Without a doubt, the situation is worsening, and the response in general has fallen short of what is needed during an emergency. The truth is that the Scottish Litter Survey highlighted that nine in 10 people in Scotland believe that litter is an issue across the country, and almost two fifths believe that litter in general has become more common in their area in the past year.

Addressing littering requires a combination of awareness, infrastructure, policy, community participation and, crucially, a willingness to collaborate – something which can be hard to do when stuck in a negative situation with polarising opinions of causes and solutions. However, collaboration is possible and when achieved, amazing results can follow. A perfect example is the most recent Spring Clean Scotland campaign. The campaign serves as an annual call to action to the people of Scotland to get out and actively help clean up Scotland.

This year we launched the campaign with support from Green Tangerine CIC at Port Glasgow and the Scottish Sea Bird Centre in North Berwick respectively with a combined volunteer count of around 80 people. Who could have predicted that six weeks later the 2024 Spring Clean Scotland campaign would end and we would be celebrating the relentless efforts of over 45,000 volunteers who took part and stepped up to help care for their communities, showing incredible dedication and resilience.

At a time when many volunteers are feeling fatigued and frustrated, the ongoing commitment to supporting the campaign is incredible and saying thank you doesn’t begin to cover what we think and want to say.

The 2024 campaign hasn’t just been a success - with people, businesses, local government and organisations uniting under the call to action - it has proven that the collaboration and commitment needed to tackle Scotland’s litter emergency is there. This year we saw a 49% increase in volunteers willing to get involved and work towards making a difference in their area and over 90,000 volunteer hours were clocked across more than 3,500 litter picks.

While it is true that one campaign is not the cure for our emergency, and there is much work required on both a local and national level, the volunteer response, the clear willingness to collaborate and the partnerships formed during the campaign are a key element in addressing our emergency.

I know at times many volunteers wonder if they are having any impact, but the 2024 campaign has proven that while it is true that alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. We'll be issuing this year's Spring Clean report in the coming days, but until then, to everyone who contributed to this year’s success – thank you.

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