It’s time to litter-ly turn anger into action

A blog post by Barry Fisher

Barry Fisher
Chief Executive

Posted 22/03/2021

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Our natural resources are vital for communities and visitors, for our economy and personal health and wellbeing, and they must be respected and protected for the enjoyment of everyone.

Poor local environmental quality – litter, dog fouling, flytipping in particular - threatens the strength of Scotland’s tourism industry; with scenery and landscape being the most important factors motivating people to visit Scotland.

For now, the ‘stay at home’ message remains.  But soon, this will be lifted.  That combined with improving weather means we are expecting people to start spending more time outside.  We will all be able to get back to visiting our favourite haunts and discovering some new gems as the doors to Scotland’s beautiful places are reopened to us. 

We know that international travel is a way off, and the desire for people to have day trips, weekend breaks and longer holidays, to switch off from the day to day and experience new patterns and places, with the family and friends we haven’t seen for what seems forever, is a real need.

Following experiences of last year, we also know that as people flock to our rural communities, mountains and lochs, beaches and city parks we need to have a robust response to support the communities which often rely on tourism, from the illegal and anti-social behaviours that a small minority of visitors show and which trashed some of our iconic and most beautiful spaces in 2020.

Unfortunately, we expect to see more shocking images flooding social media.  We expect people who always do the right thing to be angry again about the lack of respect shown, by some, for our beautiful country and those communities so closely connected to, and reliant on it.

But, critically this time, we are more prepared to respond.

Considerable planning and investment in visitor management has taken place over the past six-months to support the growth of home tourism as a result of restrictions, and to put in place measures to address some of the challenges we were faced with last summer as new audiences, often unaware of the consequences of their visits to our iconic places and city parks had on the environment itself and the wider communities and land managers.

I am delighted that Keep Scotland Beautiful has been able to support the work of a cross-sector group to look at developing a Scotland-wide strategic and coordinated approach to visitor management to help outdoor adventurers and visitors understand how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly across marketing, media and social media.  

We have been working closely on sub-groups looking at dog control, human waste and litter – all areas we are passionate about addressing.

And it is litter that we have the most vocal on, and supportive of in terms of action.   

Litter.  It is something that everyone has an opinion about. Some are so angered by it they rant and chastise on public forums. Others roll their sleeves up and regularly litter pick the places they care about. And, some people, they litter. 

Litter is our bread and butter.  For decades we have, along with many others been working hard to make it easy for people to do the right thing – to bin their litter or take it home with them.  The psychology and reasons for littering are complicated.  The illegal behaviour should be an easy one to fix. But it isn’t. 

It costs our local authorities more than £1million a week to deal with. We support thousands of people across the country to do litter surveys, and clean ups when people do the wrong thing.  Without all this investment of money and time things could be far worse. 

But, the bottom line is that we are facing a litter emergency, and we need to all do much more.  It is not just a litter crisis impacting our iconic beauty spots.  Our latest report, ‘Time for a new approach to tackling litter’, uncovered damning evidence that the cleanliness levels of our cities, towns, villages, and beauty spots are worse than ever too.

Just last week we jointly hosted a Litter Summit, with Zero Waste Scotland and the Scottish Government providing an opportunity to reflect on the current situation, including the impact of Covid-19, and to discuss how to restart the development of a new national strategy for tackling litter and identify some immediate priorities and actions.

Good things are happening.  We might not be moving as quickly as we would like.  We might not have the sustained reach and impact we’d like, but we are looking forward positively.

We have had to postpone our normal support for spring clean activity this year, but instead will be supporting people to turn their anger into action - encouraging people to collect data about litter in their neighbourhoods; to carry out litter picks this summer in household groups locally; and, most importantly, to share the national messaging to encourage people to do the right thing - making leaving litter socially unacceptable as well as illegal.

To maintain our stunning landscapes and places that we all love to visit, we must ensure we all protect our natural resources by being responsible and respectful when visiting. Along with all those who have invested time to support the Visitor Management Strategy we are urging everyone to care for Scotland by leaving no trace of their visit and stepping up to support those who aren’t currently to do the right thing.

We all need to #RespectProtectEnjoy Scotland. All of Scotland can be beautiful.


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