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 2021/22 LEAMS audit

During the 2021/2022 financial year, 89 audits took place. In total, 12,803 individual sites were assessed for litter and local environmental quality. Although less restrictive than in 2020/2021, the Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the ability to carry out street cleansing and litter monitoring duties.

This year’s LEAMS audit highlights the following trends:

  • The number of locations with unacceptable amounts of litter has increased since last year, continuing the decline
  • High proportions of local environmental quality issues tend to be in urban areas
  • High density residential sites have the highest frequency of unacceptable litter levels
  • Strategic roads are least likely to be completely free from litter
  • The most deprived areas continue to have higher litter levels than less deprived areas and the gap is widening
  • Cigarette litter is the most common litter type
  • Food and drink packaging litter is common
  • Most sites record a presence of litter from pedestrians but litter from domestic waste has increased
  • Detritus is increasing in frequency, the most likely recorded indicator after litter with weeds following
  • Graffiti, flyposting and gum staining are more common in town/city centre and high density residential areas

The reasons for these trends are complex and there are many factors which play a part. The pandemic has had a considerable impact on the ability of local authorities to meet expected street cleansing standards. The ongoing decline in the level of public resources is also making it harder for local authorities to deal with litter and other cleansing duties.

However, alongside these challenges there are other factors which are also having an impact – an increase in packaging litter, particularly single-use disposable food and drinks packaging, and population dense communities also play a part.

1 in 10 sites have unacceptable levels of litter
1 in 5 sites are litter free

More than 1 in 5

sites recorded a significant issue with either litter, weed growth and/or detritus
53% of litter items are smoking related

Highest percentage

of sites with fast food litter in 10 years


of litter items are food and drink litter
20 of 31 of local authorities saw an increase in the percentage of unacceptably littered sites since last year
The occurence of unacceptable levels of litter in low density residential areas increased to 1 in 10
Significant gap between litter levels in the most and least deprived areas nationally

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
  • Paper
  • 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
  • Vandalism
  • Graffiti
  • Flyposting
  • Flytipping
  • Staining:
  • Litter bins

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 0.4% and now sits at 89.7% of sites having acceptable levels of litter. 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.

Furthermore, our data continues to show a correlation between litter levels and levels of deprivation. When looking at the 20% most deprived areas 32.7% have unacceptable litter levels compared with 4.6% in the 20% least deprived. This gap is widening and is most keenly felt in urban local authorities which also suffer the highest frequency of unacceptable litter levels. Over 40% of sites in the most deprived areas in urban local authority areas have significant or severe litter.

This year two thirds of authorities saw a drop in their score of percentage of sites recording acceptable litter levels. These scores, a key performance indicator for local authorities, allow tracking of progress in street cleansing. Seeing so many areas of Scotland in decline shows us this is a national problem.

Across local authorities there is a wide range of scores nationally and between benchmarked clubs. When benchmarking across local authorities, we must consider the many reasons for differences in scores and the context. There are differences in levels of deprivation in each authority area, with a skew to more deprived areas found in urban areas. The covid-19 pandemic also impacted all authorities differently, certainly impacting staffing, cleansing, and monitoring. Lastly the budgets and severity in decline of resources will be different across Scotland. The clubs are therefore used to mitigate against the wider difference and help local authorities benchmark with similar areas.

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. It is present at 63% of sites, increasing to 81% in town/ city centre sites. Of all litter items counted, smoking related litter makes up 53%.
Food and drink litter
Food and drink litter are often large items, making them a very visible type of litter affecting our perception of areas. Cans, bottles and cartons make up 9% of litter counted and drinks related items are present at 42% of sites. Similarly, 42% of sites recorded confectionery items which make up 8% of counted items. More than one in five sites has fast food related litter, more than last year which was the highest recorded in ten years.
Dog fouling
The amount of dog fouling recorded has increased since last year with 7% of sites recorded this issue, compared to 6% in 2020/21. It has a higher presence in town centre and high density residential areas.
Paper is a new litter type this year, introduced when using LMS to survey. After smoking it was found at the second highest proportion of sites, 45%. It also makes up 9% of litter items counted.

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
After a decline in the presence of weeds in 2020/21 it has increased, recorded at 55% of sites. However, the number of sites with significant or severe weed growth has dropped from one in eight to one in 10.
Detritus was recorded at almost two thirds of sites, an increase from last year. One in eight sites have a significant or severe detritus problem, very similar to last year.
Graffiti is mainly found in town/city centre and high density residential areas recorded at 12% of sites audited. In high density residential areas 5% of sites have a significant or severe presence. Across Scotland as a whole, graffiti is found at one in 15 sites.
Encouragingly, vandalism continues to be a minor issue in Scotland. Less than 2% of sites recorded any vandalism, with higher concentrations in town/city centres.
As expected, illegal advertising is mainly seen in town/city centre. Across Scotland only 2% of sites have flyposting, this rose to 6% in town/city centres but this is a decrease of 4% since last year.
The number of sites affected by staining to the ground has increased, recorded at 15% of sites audited. In town/city centres this increases to more than one in three sites, although mostly minor with one in 14 being significant/ severe.


The last five years of national LEAMS programme has continued to highlight the areas that are in the most need for intervention to improve the quality of the local environment and shows the trend of increasing levels of litter, weeds and detritus.

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). We also have several campaigns to raise awareness, gather evidence and inspire people to take positive action.

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 the current Local Environmental Audit and Management System to the new Litter Monitoring System moves forward.