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 2017/18 LEAMS audit

During the 2017/18 financial year, 93 audits took place, three in each local authority area. In total, 13,606 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
  • The general public are the main source of litter in the environment
  • 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 assiciated with community cohesion.

83% of all sites audited are affected by litter.
99% of sites with litter, the general public are a contributor.

Over half

of all local authorities have seen an increase in significantly littered sites.
3 out of 4 town/city centres have smoking-related litter.


of main roads have food and drink packaging litter.

1 in 6

footpaths and verges in high density areas have dog fouling.

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 fallen by almost 2%. This is the lowest average score for Scotland in more than ten years, This means that even more sites are 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. Three out of five sites audited had cigarette litter. This increased to three out of four sites in town/city centres and high density residential areas.
Food and drink litter
The amount recorded of this very visible type of litter had increased this year. Two out of every five sites had drinks-related litter, half of sites had confectionery litter and one out of every five sites had fast food related litter. Significant presence levels has slightly increased since last year. However, encouragingly, significant amounts along roadside verges (zone 6) had decreased.
Dog fouling
This year, the highest proportion of sites recording dog fouling in over ten years of LEAMS auditing was recorded. One in ten sites had the issue. A high density of sites with dog fouling continued to be residential footpaths and verges, with almost one in six of this type of site recording the issue.

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
Almost half of the sites audited had some form of weed growth and this is an increase from last year. One in ten sites had significant amounts of weeds meaning that they had a very visible and negative impact on the appearance of the location. This was generally more of an issue in high density residential areas, where one in five sites were significantly affected.
As with weed growth, almost half of all sites had detritus – again, an increase from the previous year. Detritus was most common where people live, with almost three in five residential sites affected, and one in ten of these locations 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 3% of sites had flyposting, this rose to 12% in town/city centres (an increase from last year). 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 3% of sites. However, this is an increase from last year. Most cases of flytipping were found to be single items or bags and only 0.5% of sites were more extensively affected.
The number of sites affected by staining to the ground has increased since 2016/17. 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 40% of these sites it had a significant visible impact.


This LEAM Benchmarking report 2017/18 highlights that, once again, the environmental quality of the places where we live, work and travel has declined. And, as we have highlighted, the reasons for this decline are complex with many factors which play a part.

However, the audit also shows that encouragingly, some local authorities are managing to maintain or improve standards from 2016/17 into 2017/18, so the sharing of best practice and benchmarking is clearly of benefit to all and provides the opportunity for learning and improvements to be made across local authorities.

Alongside these results, our 2016 report, Scotland’s Local Environmental Quality in Decline, and our update report in 2017, both show that local environmental quality is declining more severely and at a faster rate in our most deprived communities. This, in turn, effects health and well-being, fear of crime and has a detrimental impact upon the local economy.

So, in the light of this year’s LEAMS results and the complex nature of all the factors involved, the question is, how do we stop this decline in our environmental quality standards with less resources?

There is no easy answer to this problem. The litter prevention approach, as set out in Scotland’s National Litter Strategy, will only be possible if we all work together – local authorities, communities and businesses – to develop a strategic, realistic and achievable approach to break this downtrend.

With this in mind, Keep Scotland Beautiful will make every effort to develop programmes that can support all stakeholders in achieving clean, green and sustainable local environments.