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We join partners to urge Governments to put litter at the heart of new polluter pays scheme

22 March 2022

Today we have joined Keep Britain Tidy, Keep Wales Tidy and Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful to lead the call for litter payments to form a key component of the UK Government’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) reforms.

We have written to the Environment Ministers at Westminster, Holyrood, Senedd Cymru and Stormont to ask them to ensure that litter is made part of any new EPR scheme, and have been joined in this call by more than 40 environmental charities - including Scottish Wildlife Trust, Marine Conservation Society, Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, The Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland and Greenspace Scotland.

Catherine Gee, our Deputy CEO commented, “In Scotland we have been warning of a looming litter emergency.  We know from our data that litter levels are unacceptable, and that more needs to be done to tackle the problem that is impacting communities across the country.  We see a large number of littered packaging items, and as part of a coordinated approach to tackle all litter, urge the UK Government and devolved administrations to make the right decision to include litter payments in EPR legislation to help support the necessary measures such as cleansing and infrastructure, as well as raising funds that put prevention at the heart of any plan for a litter-free nation. Litter is a global issue and we need to work collaboratively to tackle it and prevent further damage to our economy, wellbeing and environment.”

The letter calls for packaging producers to be fully held to account over litter caused by their products, with statutory litter payments made a key component of the Government’s EPR plans. We believe the EPR scheme offers a meaningful chance to tackle the root causes of many environmental problems by fully adopting the “polluter pays” principle. This underpins the proposals by shifting the costs of pollution onto those who profit from placing large amounts of packaging on the market.

The UK Government, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland had proposed that under the forthcoming EPR system, producers would be made responsible for the full net costs of managing packaging waste, including bin and ground litter management costs. But it is understood the Government and policy-makers are now under substantial pressure to exclude litter payments entirely from the EPR plans, based on a “flawed narrative” that it is only the public who is to blame for litter.

Sustainability consultants Eunomia recently estimated that the cost of managing littered packaging by local authorities is around £384m a year but this figure only reflects a fraction of the scale of the problem of littered packaging and the resources that are needed to address it. It does not reflect the costs incurred by other duty bodies (such as road and rail authorities, water authorities and national park authorities) or the contribution of litter-picking volunteers, nor does it reflect the considerable funds and resources that are raised and allocated for litter prevention campaigns across the UK. Neither does it include the cost to our environment of tonnes of plastic waste that is not captured by street cleansing and finds its way into our countryside and into our watercourses and, ultimately, our oceans.

You can read the letter below.

Today we have also published our draft response to the ongoing consultation by the Scottish Governmnet on a National Strategy for Litter and Flytipping for Scotland.  You can read this and find out more about litter and our research and evidence here.

We support the