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Public say litter emergency is worsening

Nine in ten people in Scotland believe that litter is an issue across the country, an opinion that has continually grown for the past three years.

We have published two new reports - the Scottish Litter Survey, a public perception snapshot conducted by the Diffley Partnership and a ground litter report How clean are our streets? - both revealing the depth and breadth of Scotland's litter emergency.

The Scottish Litter Survey confirmed that 90% of those asked believe litter is a problem across the country - the highest number since the research began. While our latest ground litter report – How clean are our streets? – revealed that litter levels continue to significantly impact the cleanliness of our streets and roads with 75% of sites being littered while one in 10 were observed to have a significant presence adversely affecting the cleanliness of the area.

Worryingly almost two fifths (39%) believe that litter in general has become more common in their area in the past year.  This perception is more pronounced in the least affluent neighbourhoods - a figure backed up by our ground litter data which highlights that litter levels are more significant in the least affluent areas.

Furthermore, 27% of sites recorded a presence of litter that would be recoverable under a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) and 40% of sites recorded litter covered under current Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations and the proposals in Scotland for ground litter.

Barry Fisher, our Chief Executive said: “Scotland is facing a litter emergency - and there is consistent recognition of this annually.  The data we’ve published today only strengthens the need for positive and imminent change across all areas, from innovative behaviour change interventions, to bin provision and servicing, to enforcement and the speedy introduction of policies which we urgently need to ensure our country has a more circular economy.  We can’t keep saying that there is a problem.  We need to ensure we reverse the trend with consistent, collective action.

“The National Litter and Flytipping Strategy and Action Plan launched earlier this year are vital and a positive step in the right direction.  We remain committed to supporting the Strategy and are already seeing shifts as communities, businesses and industry step up to play their part. But, if we are serious about tackling this issue adequate and meaningful resourcing is needed alongside the implementation of delayed policy and proposed schemes.

“With 40% of sites recording litter types that would be covered under current Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations, it is clear that any further policy delay will severely impact our ability to reverse the trend in declining environmental quality, particularly ground litter.”

Our survey found that 85% want more action to be taken to prevent littering in their area. Yet set against significant financial challenges faced by national and local government, the problem will not be solved overnight. However, we are as committed as ever to tackling the litter emergency and urge everyone to play their part to keep Scotland beautiful.

Scott Edgar of The Diffley Partnership commented, “The three years of data collected for the Scottish Litter Survey confirms consistent public concern with litter levels, and a desire for action to tackle litter and littering behaviour, across Scotland and in local communities.  Over the past three years, our comprehensive survey reveals a persistent concern among Scots regarding litter, with nine in ten acknowledging it as a prevalent issue across the nation, and seven in ten as a problem in their local area.

"With this enduring concern, the call for action remains steadfast, as 85% of Scots demand increased efforts to prevent littering in their area, echoing the sentiments observed over the three-year period.

"Our findings highlight a consistent and widespread public concern about litter in Scotland, reflecting a strong collective desire for meaningful action to address this pressing issue”

You can tackle the litter emergency and make Scotland cleaner, greener and more sustainable by organising a clean up as part of Spring Clean 2024, do a litter survey as part of our Upstream Battle campaign to help us understand more about litter where you live, and share our messages with your friends and family and colleagues.

Join us to keep Scotland beautiful.

01 December 2023

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