Your charity for Scotland’s environment

Litter

The Clean Europe Network defines litter as "waste of small size in publicly accessible areas that has been improperly discarded in the environment, whether wilfully or by negligence”.

Litter is the only core topic in the Eco-Schools programme, and must be one of the three Topics covered in order to achieve Green Flag Award status.  

Here are some resources to get you started on this topic:

Organise a Clean Up

Taking part in a Clean Up is a great way for people of all ages to get into the fresh air together, enjoy some exercise, and make a real, visible difference at the same time. Register your Clean Up on our website and we will send you a FREE Clean Up Kit full of tabards, stickers and resources. Our partners The Helping Hand Company offer a discount to schools purchasing litter picking equipment. Please use this order form.

Take the Clean Up Scotland Pledge

Join thousands of others to show you care about where you live, work and spend your leisure time. Claim back your streets and parks and let's keep Scotland beautiful. Pledge to do your bit to Clean Up Scotland.

Litter Pick Plus Toolkit

Our Litter Pick Plus Toolkit is your guide to running a successful Clean Up event and is the result of our 15 years of experience working with a network of community groups to deliver a national Clean Up campaign. Download the Litter Pick Plus Toolkit.

Raise Awareness in Your Community

Keep Scotland Beautiful has a range of mascot costumes available to help raise awareness of local environmental quality issues such as litter and dog fouling. Costumes are currently available to schools free of charge but charitable donations are welcomed. There are three dog costumes, one cigarette butt, and one chewing gum. Borrow one here.

Wrigley Litter Less Campaign

Keep Scotland Beautiful is pleased to be offering the Wrigley Litter Less campaign for a sixth year to schools participating in Eco-Schools. The campaign aims to reduce litter and affect long-term behaviour change among youth. Run by the Foundation for Environmental Education's Eco-Schools programme with the support of the Wrigley Company Foundation. Have a look at what schools have achieved in previous years in our Litter Less Case Studies page.

Marine Litter Posters - Clean Up Scotland

If your school is located near the coast or has planned a visit to a favourite beach, these Clean Up Scotland posters containing facts, types and sources of litter might be a useful part of your litter topic.  You can also check if your local beach has a Beach Award.

Roadside Litter Campaign

No matter what the excuse, littering anywhere is never ok. Littering on roadsides is especially problematic because it is so difficult to clean up.  That's why we say: Give your litter a lift. Take it home! Find out more about roadside litter and help spread the word.

Zero Waste Scotland – Working With Schools to Prevent Litter

Schools across Scotland are finding inventive ways to fit litter into their lesson plans. Integrating litter prevention into the curriculum could be a lot easier than you think. Read more and download lesson plans.

Cool Seas Investigators

Find out more about a project we have been part of with the Marine Conservation Society, funded by Zero Waste Scotland, to target the issue of sanitary waste reaching our beaches. The project aims to support teachers and pupils in their learning. Download Cool Seas Investigators resources.

Clean Europe Network

The Clean Europe Network is a pan-European platform for sharing best practice and research to improve litter prevention across the EU. Keep Scotland Beautiful is proud to be a founding member. Find out more about the work of the Clean Europe Network and read the Clean Europe Charter.

Great Nurdle Hunt - FIDRA


Nurdles are small plastic pellets about the size of a lentil. Countless billions are used each year to make nearly all our plastic products but many end up washing up on our shores. The Great Nurdle Hunt aims to end further industrial plastic pellet or 'nurdle' pollution into Scottish seas. Join the hunt!

Goal 12 Lesson Plans - World's Largest Lesson


Litter issues and waste issues go hand in hand. A circular economy approach prevents waste and helps to prevent litter and the costs associated with cleaning it up. Understanding Sustainable Living suitable for 11-14 year olds and Understanding the Challenge of Finite Resources suitable for 12-19 year olds both generate discussions on sustainable living and circular economy.

Marine Litter Lesson Plan - World's Largest Lesson


An excellent lesson plan on Marine Litter from The World's Largest Lesson on the threat of litter to ocean life, featuring UNEP Patron of the Oceans, Lewis Pugh. Suitable for 8-15 year olds.

All About Litter

According to Zero Waste Scotland, we collect 50 Kelpies’ worth of litter every year. That’s 15,000 tonnes, or 250 million items – nearly 50 pieces of litter for every person in Scotland. Or, in other words, 475 dropped every minute. Half our streets are blighted by cigarette litter, and litter-pickers now collect an average of 1,963 pieces of litter per kilometre on Scotland’s beaches.

Littered areas attract more litter, with people more likely to drop litter somewhere that already has a problem. As well as being an eyesore, litter affects both our health and the environment. The presence of litter has been shown to make people feel less safe, with a greater fear of crime and more health issues in areas where there is a higher level of litter.

Cleaning up litter is also expensive and time consuming. In Scotland, we spend more than £1 million every week cleaning up litter and flytipping and with tourism worth over £4bn a year the consequences are clear.

Litter and the Environment

Litter is usually grouped into eight main material types, but the most commonly found items are made of plastic. Despite what many people think, plastic never biodegrades, it just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually entering the food chain as microplastic. Smaller items flushed down toilets avoid sewage filters and end up on our beaches, while larger items like carrier bags can trap or choke animals, clog drains and damage marine ecosystems by smothering riverbeds and marshland.

There is a clear path from land to sea, with litter dropped on our streets and beaches ending up in our waterways and eventually in the ocean. Plastic litter has a particularly bad effect on marine wildlife. Turtles can’t tell the difference between plastic carrier bags and jellyfish and often starve to death from eating them. The Marine Conservation Society says over 90% of Fulmars found dead around the North Sea have plastic in their stomachs.

Glass is one of the longest lasting man made materials and will not break down naturally in our lifetime.  Another problem with glass is that it breaks into sharp pieces which can pose a threat to wildlife. Balloons and sky lanterns might look impressive, but ribbons and string tied to balloons can lead to the entanglement of birds and animals and some lanterns have a wire structure which does not degrade and can harm livestock.

Even natural items like banana and orange peels are litter, with the John Muir Trust pointing out that they take weeks to decompose particularly in the colder environment of Scotland’s hills. Chewing gum remains on our streets and pavements forever unless it is removed at great cost.

Even pets aren’t allowed to litter. Dog fouling is one of the most noticeable problems affecting our streets with one in every six sites affected despite fines doubling in 2016 and 7 out of 10 people saying it is the cleanliness problem that bothers them most. The biggest risk from dog fouling is an infection from roundworm spreading toxocariasis, which can cause eye damage.

According to our 2016 report, Scotland’s environmental quality is in decline with an end to nearly ten years of improvements.

The good news is, we can all do something about it!

Case Study - Rannoch Nursery

Children and staff at Rannoch Nursery participated in the Wrigley Litter Less Campaign and received £250 to fund a Litter campaign in their community. Children designed their own bin and reached out to local high school pupils as Litter Police. Read more.

Case Study - Lochinver Early Years Centre

Children at Lochinver Early Years Centre began a marine litter project funded by the Wrigley Litter Less Campaign, looking at the effects of micro plastics like glitter and microbeads, and encouraging local fishermen to join the KIMO Fishing for Litter initiative. Read more.