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Scottish public see litter as a national problem


07 December 2021

Our new research has revealed the depth of the perceived litter problem across Scotland.[1]  88% of survey respondents believe that litter is a problem nationally, while 70% believe it is an issue in their local area.

Worryingly 38% of respondents reported litter becoming more common, especially in urban areas over the past 12 months too.

This reflects our on the ground national litter surveys which recorded a higher number of locations with unacceptable amounts of litter than last year.  We previously highlighted the scale of the challenge facing Scotland in our report ‘Time for a new approach to tackling litterpublished at the end of 2020.

The publication of ‘Scotland’s Litter Survey - the first comprehensive baseline assessment of public perceptions and attitudes towards litter and littering behaviour in Scotland - comes in advance of the publication of a consultation paper by the Scottish Government on a new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy before the end of the year.

The survey covered public attitudes to litter, changes in levels of litter, the wider impacts of litter and potential options for tackling litter.  The outputs will be used to inform our work nationally and locally with communities, local authorities and other stakeholders to drive practical action to improve local environmental quality, reduce consumption and tackle litter across Scotland.

Other key stats highlighted by the survey include:

  • Food and drink packaging were perceived to be the most frequent types of litter.
  • The environmental impacts of litter, particularly on the natural environment and animals, top people’s concerns with financial and economical impacts a less potent concern.
  • Young people deemed litter to have a larger impact on the natural world than other age brackets.

Positively, there was a clear appetite from those surveyed for greater action to tackle and prevent litter in Scotland, with particular support for improving waste disposal facilities and educational campaigns.

Barry Fisher, our CEO commented, “The findings in this report reinforce our data collected from more than 10,000 locations across Scotland which has shown an increase in litter and decline in the local environmental quality of our neighbourhoods. 

“We know from those we support through our campaigns and programmes to tackle litter that the looming litter emergency is becoming closer – but we also believe that the real answer to tackling the issue lies within our communities and true collaboration.

“It is clear that people feel strongly about litter and want more done to tackle which is why I am clearly calling for people to make their voices heard on litter and contribute positively to the Scottish Government consultation over the coming months.

“Litter hasn’t stopped.  But neither will we.”

Iain Gulland, CEO of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Litter is waste in the wrong place. And, unfortunately, it’s an ongoing issue in Scotland, as it is elsewhere across the world. Tackling the problem involves several approaches; from education and awareness, to better waste management practices, and organisations and communities joining forces to tackle the issue.

“These are all things we’re doing great work in already, but today’s report shows there’s still some way to go. What’s encouraging is that a high percentage of Scots want to see an end to litter and are supportive of further action to rid Scotland of our unacceptable throwaway culture.”

[1] The Scottish Litter Survey was produced in association with The Diffley Partnership as part of its Understanding Scotland Series.  All stats are taken from this survey unless cited differently.

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