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Report published on World Ocean Day reveals a snapshot of the marine litter problem on the River Tay

08 June 2022

This World Ocean Day, 8 June 2022, we have published a report on marine litter in Tayside between 2021-22.

Marine litter is a real crisis - 80% of the litter found at sea, endangering wildlife, damaging habitats and threatening human safety, starts life on land. Litter dropped in, or on, the banks of our waterways accumulates and could flow to the sea. Over the last three years the award-winning Upstream Battle campaign has supported communities along the River Clyde to gather evidence and raise awareness of the issue. In 2021 the Upstream Battle campaign began on the River Tay. 


The report includes data from litter surveys carried out on the banks of the Tay and its tributaries by community groups, who counted over 3000 items of litter.

Key findings include:

  • Cigarettes were top of the list of items found.
  • Plastic (for example snack packets) and foil wrappers were also in the top ten of the litter found, demonstrating a problem with how single-use items are consumed. Their inclusion in the most common items might also be because of extra plastic packaging used during the pandemic. Because these are lighter items, they could also be more likely to blow into waterways and out to sea.
  • Sewage-related debris, including wet wipes and period products, are also causing a huge problem. Keep Scotland Beautiful is supporting Scottish Water’s Nature Calls campaign, calling for a ban on wipes containing plastic and encouraging people to make sure they bin their wipes.


Barry Fisher, our CEO said: “We know that 80% of marine litter comes from land and that we need to tackle this problem upstream. Our stats also highlight that litter levels are on the rise and 88% of people believe that litter is a problem nationally – this is unacceptable.

“If we want to get rid of marine litter in our seas and oceans we need to understand how, where and what types of litter are getting into our local waterways and this report really highlights the level of the problem on the Tay. The data gathered through litter surveys carried out by our volunteer groups, will help build a wider picture of the litter out there and its potential impact, allowing us to target the problem effectively.”


Dundee City Council Leader Councillor John Alexander said: “It was very positive to support the launch of Upstream Battle on the Tay in Dundee in August 2021, meeting and working with partners on what is an important issue. It’s critical we continue to receive buy-in from all who live, work, study and visit Dundee to help us take the required action to prevent litter from entering the River Tay from land and the damaging effects it can have.


“The publication of this citizen science report and the findings from the litter survey data are welcomed and contribute towards tackling litter and changing the behaviour behind littering.”


Brian Lironi, Scottish Water's Corporate Affairs Director, said: "We can all do more to prevent marine litter entering our water systems by stopping it at source to protect our environment and getting into the water cycle. Our work to encourage people to carry reusable bottles to reduce single-use plastic bottles and ask customers to bin wet wipes rather than flushing highlights simple steps we can all take in and around our homes and daily lives to reduce our impact on the planet. Behaviour changes combined with legislative steps like banning wet wipes which contain plastic can make a real difference."

You can read a copy of the report at 

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