The litter emergency

Scotland’s cleanliness plays a huge part in its beauty.  But our country is blighted by litter, dog poo and flytipping.

Our wildlife, our people, our visitors and our country deserve better.

We work closely with local authorities, communities, and businesses to tackle litter and waste and to keep our country and neighbourhoods clean, green, and sustainable.

The litter emergency

We know that litter is a matter of significant public concern as highlighted in our recent Scottish Litter Survey and this deterioration in standards is also evidenced through our annual audits.

The data paints a worrying trend and indicates that the decline is worsening at a disproportionate rate in our most deprived neighbourhoods.

We don’t believe that this can continue. In 2013 we recorded our cleanest year. All our evidence and data now point to the fact there is a litter emergency in Scotland as ten years on, we have recorded our worst year.

Despite the gloomy picture, we know that tackling litter will lead to important, positive impacts on efforts to combat climate change and halt biodiversity loss too. 

And we know that positive progress is being made by the Scottish Government, SEPA, Zero Waste Scotland, local authorities and communities.

In September 2022 we welcomed the publication of the new Marine Litter Strategy by the Scottish Government, and we are looking forward to the publication of a new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy for Scotland in early 2023.

We are continuing to find new ways to engage and work with Scotland’s people and to work collaboratively with renewed positivity to reverse the data trends and tackle the behaviours driving the litter crisis.

Looking forward there are significant policy measures being brought forward which have the potential to influence and drive change in those behaviours that can impact upon the number and type of items littered including Extended Producer Responsibility schemes, the introduction of a charge for single-use coffee cups, and the Deposit Return Scheme set to be introduced in March 2024.

But there is no doubt, urgent action is needed now and appropriate investment, resourcing and financing over a ten-year period is essential if we are to revitalise our communities and truly keep Scotland beautiful.

We know that tackling litter will lead to important, positive impacts on efforts to combat climate change and halt biodiversity loss.

If you want to join us to tackle the litter emergency, for our environment, our wildlife, our health and our wellbeing, do reach out to us.

Time for a new approach: tackling the litter emergency

Read more about the quality of our local environments and the litter emergency in our update based on our LEAMs audits and a new public perception survey. 

December 2022

Our asks in summary

We want to support Scotland to become a fully litter-ate country, through a community-focussed programme of education, training, and public engagement.

We want to see increased support and investment in national behaviour change campaigns and messaging to address Scotland’s litter emergency.

We need collaborative and collective action, alongside adequate resourcing, to implement the new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy for Scotland.

We want Scotland to bring forward a bold Circular Economy Bill with a comprehensive Route Map that delivers action across all sectors in the transition to a circular economy.

We’ve called for a bold reform of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation with implementation powers devolved to Scotland that could provide Scotland with additional funds for litter prevention.

We need everyone to help us reverse the decline and take us out of the litter emergency.

Our most recent reports and data on litter

You can access our most recent local environmental quality and litter reports and data via the links below, but we have also published a range of reports summarising our campaigns, activities and findings over the years.  These can be found on our reports and publications pages.  Do get in touch if you would like to find out more. 

Our work with you to tackle litter and waste

We provide support to communities, local authorities and businesses who want to take action to reverse the looming litter emergency.

Find out more about our ongoing activities to tackle litter across Scotland and get involved.  You can play your part by organising a spring clean, finding out about our Litterate training, or even turn trash in to cash by taking part in LitterLotto.

New National Litter and Flytipping Strategy for Scotland

During 2020/21 we supported people across Scotland to have their voices heard and to make responses to the consultation by the Scottish Government on a new strategy for Scotland.  This year, alongside Zero Waste Scotland and the Scottish Environment Protect Agency (SEPA), we have been supporting the Scottish Government to develop the new strategy to tackle the litter emergency.

You can read more about our role, your views and check out consultation response on this page.


How we monitor local environmental quality across Scotland

We understand issues such as litter, dog fouling, flytipping, flyposting and graffiti, because for 20 years, in partnership with Scotland’s local authorities, we have carried out annual surveys at a random selection of sites across Scotland every year using the Local Environmental Audit and Management System (LEAMS). 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.

Over the years we have used the data collected to produce annual reports and key reviews highlighting national trends. Check out the findings from the 2021/22 audits.

We continue to work in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland and local authorities on the transition of LEAMS towards the development and implementation of the new Litter Monitoring System (LMS) to provide greater consistency of approach and improve transparency in cleanliness grades.

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