- From Eco-School Committee to environmental charity
- You can’t tackle the climate crisis unless you are climate ready
- Why everyone wins when you take part in Beautiful Scotland
- Entering our third decade with a splash
- Is 2020 the year for a circular economy in Scotland?
- A year in the life of: the campaigns and innovation team
- Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime
- Setting sail: all aboard the partnership
- Free wheeling
- Scotland is thirsty for change
- This #ScotClimateWeek, are you ready to pledge?
- Upstream Battle at Whinhill Primary School
- Elaine Hopley on our Upstream Battle week of action
- 20 September climate strikes: what took place and what happens now?
- Playing our part to reduce cup waste
- The funeral of a glacier: time to pull the emergency brake
- Get your Paws on Plastic
- Arran – exploring its hidden gems
- It’s time to take action to reverse climate change
- Tackling Our Unsustainable Cup Consumption
- Cups hitting the ground: what we learned at TRNSMT Festival
- We All Have To Fight The UpStream Battle
- It's rubbish that people have to clean up after litter bugs
- The power of pocket gardens
- Registering your clean up makes a difference
- Tackling climate change starts at home
- Speaking the language of Carbon Literacy
- The life of a Keep Scotland Beautiful intern
- Wheatley Group: two years on and still going strong
- Roadside Litter: Think twice before you chuck
- Our citizen scientists are ready to make waves for Upstream Battle
- Taking a stand on climate change – what actions will you take?
- The Cup Movement will tackle our litter culture head on
- Working across borders to tackle climate change
- Celebrating 25 years of Eco-Schools in Scotland
- Climate change – it’s personal
- Putting young people first for our environment at Keep Scotland Beautiful
- Treading lightly – steps to lower our carbon footprint
- Aunty Babs washes her spoon and so should you
- Climate change: we can all do our bit
- Have yourself a green Christmas
- Shifting up a gear on Scotland’s roadside litter problem
- It’s time to consign our litter problem to the dustbin of history
- We can save our seas by starting at home
- Everyone can do their bit to protect the world – what’s your Goal?
What we see affects how we feel. This may seem like it goes without saying, however the impact of our surroundings on our daily lives is often not appreciated. Clean open spaces, streets and towns help to improve our sense of wellbeing, whereas heavily littered areas can devalue these places. It’s important to understand the issues on our streets and how they change geographically and over time.
This is where I come in. My job is to monitor issues such as litter, dog fouling and flytipping across the whole of Scotland using a national benchmarking system called the Local Environmental Audit and Management System (LEAMS). This system allows local authorities to efficiently tackle environmental quality issues and can guide new projects and campaigns, as well as help in advising policy.
Over the last two years, we have been working with Zero Waste Scotland and APSE to support the trial of a new litter monitoring methodology (LMS) and software solution to reflect the new Code of Practice (2018).
So how does the current system work? Three LEAMS surveys are completed in each local authority every year, two by the local authority and one by Keep Scotland Beautiful (AKA me). Within each local authority area, 5% of streets are selected at random and then surveyed. Last year alone, with some help from the rest of my team, I surveyed over 6,000 streets!
Once the streets have been selected, I map an efficient route to survey all of them. As we survey all over Scotland, the order I do the surveys is planned out in advance. I liaise with each local authority to see if they want to join and then arrange any necessary accommodation and travel.
Once everything is arranged I’m ready to go out and survey. A typical day involves planning a route to follow and then surveying 25-50 streets. At each street I walk a 50m transect of each side. I assess the amount and type of litter and grade the site from Grade A to Grade D, where C and D are classed as unacceptable. I also record other environmental indicators such as graffiti, gum and vandalism as well as the litter source. I take photos to show the variety of different grades and streets. The example photos show streets with a Grade A and B (which are acceptable), and a street with a Grade C (unacceptable). This method is then repeated for the rest of the streets within the local authority area.
Travelling across Scotland for work has some unexpected bonuses – for example getting to know the location of all the good cafes, public toilets and petrol stations! I have also had the opportunity to visit some great destinations from the Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis to Robert Burns House in Dumfries.
There are a lot of different types of litter on Scotland’s streets. Cigarette litter is very common, as well as crisp packets, cans, bottles and fast food packaging. Other more unusual items include Christmas trees, kitchen implements and occasionally a single shoe.
Once all the streets have been surveyed, and the data is collected into a spreadsheet, we make a report which highlights any issues or improvements. This gives a performance indicator with the overall percentage of acceptable streets. It also details how this score relates to previous years and breaks down the different environmental indicators, as well as litter sources.
Data collection is important as it allows us to see trends over time. LEAMS is the current national indicator for street cleanliness, so the collection of this data in Scotland is of great importance. My team are involved in reviewing different ways of monitoring litter to make sure we use the most effective and appropriate methods. Having this information can highlight issues such as an increase in litter, which in turn can have knock-on impact on other areas, such as the amount of litter in our seas – 80% of which starts on land.
Generally, there has been a decline in overall performance across Scotland. Our most recent report shows local environmental quality in Scotland has reached its lowest point in over a decade. This is driven by a complex combination of factors and continues to have a negative effect on daily lives in Scotland. Cuts in local authority budgets are one aspect of the problem and unfortunately don’t seem to be changing in the immediate future. People choose a lot of food on the go which has a lot of packaging, as do many other items in modern society, this also has a negative impact issues such as litter.
We have several campaigns running to work to reverse this trend in environmental quality. Our Spring Clean 19 campaign ran during March and April this year and saw more 40,000 people helping to clean up the country. We are working on reducing marine litter with our Upstream Battle campaign running along the river Clyde. We are also working on reducing littering on our roadsides and were pleased with the announcement that legislation will be brought forward to address littering from vehicles.
This is an issue which should be tackled in partnership, and going forward we plan to do this alongside Zero Waste Scotland and all 32 Scottish local authorities, because together we need to keep Scotland beautiful.