Local Environmental Audit
and Management System

Clean streets, towns, cities, parks and open spaces are important to all of us. They make the places where we live, work and travel more pleasant and ultimately improve our quality of life. Issues such as litter and dog fouling spoil our environment. They give the appearance of places being uncared for and devalue neighbourhoods as locations in which to live and work. Not only this, each year these issues cost Scotland more than £50 million to deal with.

To monitor issues such as litter, dog fouling, flytipping, flyposting and graffiti, and in partnership with Scotland’s local authorities, we carry out annual local environmental quality surveys at a random selection of sites across Scotland every year. This information enables local authorities to be efficient with their local cleaning activity and informs their policies and campaigns to tackle these issues. It also supports the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and the Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse (Scotland) 2018 which require local authorities and others to keep specified land and public roads clean and litter-free.

The approach we use is called the Local Environmental Audit and Management System (or LEAMS) and the audits collect information on litter types and source. Alongside this, other indicators such as weeds, graffiti, flytipping and vandalism, are also recorded to provide an overall picture of every site. Audits are carried out by each local authority as well as by us (to provide independence and validation).

The 2019/20 LEAMS audit

During the 2019/2020 financial year, 93 audits took place, three in each local authority area. In total, 14,257 individual sites were assessed for litter and local environmental quality.

This year’s LEAMS audit highlights some expected and continuing trends:

  • Urban areas tend to observe the highest proportion of issues
  • Cigarette ends are the most common litter type
  • Food and drink packaging litter is common, particularly along roadside verges
  • Weed growth and detritus are becoming a more visible detractor from good environmental quality
  • Graffiti, flyposting and gum staining are not uncommon in town/city centre areas
  • Dog fouling is an issue in high density residential areas

The reasons for these trends are complex and there are many factors which play a part. Local authority budget cuts are one obvious aspect, and one which is not likely to change in the immediate future. However, there are other factors which are also having an impact – an increase in packaging, particularly single-use disposable food and drinks packaging, population dense communities and challenges associated with community cohesion.

85% of verges along busy road networks have food and drink packaging litter.
1 in 7 footpaths and verges in high density areas have dog fouling.

1 in 6

urban town centres affected by graffiti.
30% of sites audited recorded a significant issue with either litter, weed growth and/or detritus.


of public use litter bins well serviced.

More than half

of local authorities have seen an increase in the number of litter sites since last year.
Only 1 in 6 sites were litter free.


sites had smoking related litter than last year.

Over half

of all sites had some level of weed growth and 1 in 10 had significant weed growth.

About the LEAMS approach

LEAMS uses a standard approach to record litter. Five grades are used to assess the overall presence of litter at an audited site:

Grade A No litter
Grade B+ Predominantly free of litter – up to three small items
Grade B Predominantly free of litter
Grade C Widespread distribution of litter with minor accumulations
Grade D Heavily littered with significant accumulations

*Sites that score either a grade C or D are considered unacceptable and require cleaning.

LEAMS records the following:

Types of litter
  • Dog fouling
  • Smoking-related
  • Drinks-related
  • Confectionery
  • Fast-food-related
  • Royal Mail elastic bands
  • Plastic bags
  • Coffee cups
  • Other: such as newspaper, plastic fragments and chewing gum
Sources of litter
  • Pedestrian waste: including drink cans, confectionery wrappers, fast food packaging and cigarette butts
  • Business waste: any waste that has come directly from a business
  • Domestic waste: for example, household packaging or spillage from refuse collection
  • Construction waste: such as sand bags and builders’ rubble
  • Animal faeces: any type of animal faeces
Other environmental indicators
  • Weeds
  • Detritus: such as twigs, leaves, grass and sand which can trap litter
  • Vandalism
  • Graffiti
  • Flyposting
  • Flytipping
  • Staining: for example, from chewing gum
  • Litter bins: the number of litter bins is recorded, as well as whether the bin is full / overflowing (these are bins which are over three quarters full)

Type of local authority

To enable easier comparison, local authorities are grouped together into four ‘clubs’. These are based on population and the distribution of population. Club 1 authorities are generally more rural, clubs 2 and 3 are mixed rural/urban (with club 3 having more urban areas than club 2) and club 4 covers the most urban authorities.

Local authority clubs
Club 1 Eilean Siar, Argyll and Bute, Shetland Islands, Highland, Orkney Islands, Scottish Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Aberdeenshire
Club 2 Perth and Kinross, Stirling, Moray, South Ayrshire, East Ayrshire, East Lothian, North Ayrshire, Fife
Club 3 Angus, Clackmannanshire, Midlothian, South Lanarkshire, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, West Lothian, East Renfrewshire
Club 4 North Lanarkshire, Falkirk, East Dunbartonshire, Aberdeen City, City of Edinburgh, West Dunbartonshire, Dundee City, Glasgow City

Street cleanliness and litter-related results

Scotland-wide street cleanliness

Since last year, the overall Scotland-wide street cleanliness score has gone down by 0.6%. While it is positive that there has been an improvement, this is still the second lowest score recorded in the last ten years. This means that there are far too many sites in Scotland spoilt by unacceptable amounts of litter, which devalue our neighbourhoods and cost money to clean up.

Common litter types

Cigarette litter
Despite being small, and therefore not as noticeable, cigarette litter is by far the most common type of litter found in Scotland. 63% of sites audited had some amount of cigarette litter. This increased to four out of five sites in town/city centres and three out of four high density residential areas.
Food and drink litter
The amount recorded of this very visible type of litter was similar to last year. Over a third of sites had drinks-related litter, more than two in five sites had confectionery litter and one out of every seven sites had fast food related litter. Along busy roadside verges, the amount of this type of litter recorded had decreased slightly from last year, with 85% having this type of litter compared to 93% of sites in 2018/19.
Dog fouling
The amount of dog fouling recorded this year had reduced a little from the previous year. Almost 8% of sites recorded this issue, compared to 10% 2019/20. In high density residential areas, dog fouling was recorded at one in seven sites.

Wider local environmental quality results

As well as litter-related issues, there are a number of other factors which can negatively impact the places in which we live and work, and which we record as part of the LEAMS process:

Weed growth
Just over half of the sites audited had some form of weed growth – an increase from last year. However, at most of these sites the amount was only minor. Weed growth was generally more of an issue in high density residential areas, where one in ten sites were significantly affected.
Three in five sites were found to have detritus – an increase from last year and a continuing trend. Detritus was most common where people live, with almost 65% of residential sites affected, and 12% affected significantly. In town / city centres, where mechanical sweeping takes place, it was less of an issue.
The last three years of LEAMS audits show that graffiti is a growing problem. However, it was mainly found in town/city centres. Across Scotland as a whole, graffiti was found at one in twenty locations. This increased to one in six sites when looking at town/city centres in urban local authorities.
Encouragingly, vandalism continues to be a minor issue in Scotland. Only just over 1% of sites had any vandalism and most of these were found to be minor and with little impact on the area. Etching on street furniture (particularly bus shelters) was the most common form of vandalism.
As expected, illegal advertising was mainly seen in town/city centre areas. While across Scotland, only 2% of sites had flyposting, this rose to 6% in town/city centres. Generally, the flyposting recorded was not overly noticeable and was mainly A4 posters stuck to walls.
Only a small number of sites recorded flytipping this year, at almost 3% of sites. However, this is an increase from last year. Most cases of flytipping were found to be single items or bags and less than 1% of sites were more extensively affected.
The number of sites affected by staining to the ground has increasing over the last two years. Most staining was caused by chewing gum and was found at one in ten sites across Scotland. However, in town/city centres this went up to one in four sites and in 36% of these sites it had a significant visible impact.


The last five years of national LEAMS programme have continued to highlight the areas that are in the most need for intervention to improve the quality of the local environmental and have also reported the fluctuating trends at a more local level. The current year shows that:

  • Urban areas tend to have the highest proportion of issues.
  • Cigarette-related litter (predominantly butts) is the most common litter type.
  • Food and drink packaging litter is an issue, particularly along roadside verges.
  • Weed growth and detritus are becoming a more visible detractor from good environmental quality.
  • Graffiti, flyposting and gum staining are more common in town/city centre areas.
  • Littering by the general public is the main reason that litter ends up in the environment.
  • Public use litter bins which are at capacity and overflowing are not uncommon and contributing to the litter stream.
  • Presentation and collection of domestic refuse was observed at times as an issue with escaped waste.
  • Dog fouling is an issue in high density residential areas.

Taking a longer-term view, it is clear that achieving a substantial improvement in our local environmental quality in the years to come will require concerted and collaborative action on the part of all key stakeholders. We are currently working in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, local authorities and other stakeholders on a new litter monitoring system (LMS).

In addition, as noted in our recent report on the wider issues associated with local environmental quality, we urgently need:-

  • A litter summit in early 2021 to agree a collective approach across sectors to tackling this issue.
  • A commitment to publish a new national strategy by the end of 2021 at the latest.
  • Sustained national campaigns with consistent messaging.
  • A programme of education and behaviour change to create a Litter-ate Scotland.
  • Establishment of a behaviour change innovation fund to develop and test new infrastructure solutions.
  • A review of the failing model of enforcement.
  • A national, collective network of people, organisations, communities and agencies working together to jointly reverse the decline.

We will continue to promote, share and support partnership working in order to deal with these wider issues and in particular reverse these local environmental quality trends that have been highlighted in our LEAMS audits and findings. We will also look forward to continuing to support auditing, monitoring and validation; working in partnership with local authorities as the transition from LEAMS to LMS moves forward.