Boost for action to tackle litter

Environment Secretary to introduce prevention-focused guidance.    

With over £1 million spent tackling litter every single week across Scotland, the Environment Secretary is enabling local authorities and other public bodies to take action on prevention.  

In the coming months the Scottish Government will introduce new statutory litter guidance which will encourage duty holders to attach greater priority to preventing litter from arising in the first place, aiming to reduce the amount of resources being spent on cleaning up other people’s mess.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham signalled her commitment to revising the Code of Practice for Litter and Refuse (COPLAR) while visiting Edinburgh City Council’s innovative ‘smart bin’ scheme. The pilot, which has secured funding to be rolled out further, uses smart technology to ensure collection crews always empty bins before they reach capacity and is part of efforts to minimise the amount of litter dropped in the capital.

She said:

“Public bodies across Scotland spend a huge amount of money on tackling litter and flytipping – funds which could be better spent on other services. The aim of our national litter strategy Towards a Litter-free Scotland is to drive a fundamental change in how councils and others deal with the litter problem. It’s about refocusing efforts on stopping littering behaviour in the first place, because prevention is always better than cure.

“We will place updated guidance before the Scottish Parliament in the coming months, which will broaden the measures that councils and others can take to reduce litter and improve local environmental quality.

“I welcome the leadership being shown by councils like Edinburgh in introducing innovative measures like smart bins which help prevent litter from overflowing.  Sharing evidence of what works between councils and others involved in reducing litter will be key to achieving our litter prevention aims.”

The City of Edinburgh Council’s Transport and Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds, said:

“Encouraging people to take responsibility for their own rubbish has been key to our own actions to tackle the issue of litter in Edinburgh, so we recognise the importance of prevention. The ongoing Our Edinburgh campaign has aimed to instil pride in the local environment amongst the public and has proven a success, with an increase in the amount of litter binned in the areas concerned.

“The introduction of more than 300 bin sensors has also been central to these efforts, enabling the Council to focus resources on problem areas, and has resulted in more bin collections during the trial. We have now secured funding through the European Regional Development Fund to roll the scheme out further across the city to benefit even more communities. This is being supported as part of a collaborative programme involving the Scottish Cities Alliance, which is a partnership Scotland’s 7 Cities and the Scottish Government.”

Cllr Stephen Hagan, COSLA Development, Economy and Sustainability Spokesperson said:

"We are always keen to develop new and innovative ways to tackle problems such as littering. I am keen to find out how the roll-out of smart bins works for Edinburgh, and what we can learn from that for other areas of the country.  The new guidance has been developed in partnership.  Prevention has been a key principle behind the reshaping of many council services for a number of years now, exactly because it is more cost effective, and measures that help councils to adopt more cost-effective approaches are always welcome.”



  • The updated Code of Practice for Litter and Refuse will provide practical guidance, primarily for public bodies, regarding two Environmental Protection Act (EPA) 1990 duties
      • Duty 1: to keep land and roads clear of litter and refuse
      • Duty 2: to keep roads clean
  • The Enevo sensor technology used by Edinburgh City Council works by sending data via a mobile network to staff who can then predict which bins are almost full. The data gathered will also help to identify any improvements required in the collection of bins and routes, including prioritising collections at busier spots as some bins may not need to be emptied as often as others.  Another feature of the technology is a heat sensor - if there has been a fire it’s immediately detected.
  • Edinburgh City Council has secured funding to roll-out ‘smart’ bins following a successful trial which saw new sensor technology installed in over 300 litter bins in the city centre, Leith and Portobello. The sensors ensure that collection crews always empty bins before they reach capacity. The move is part of the Council’s Waste and Cleansing Improvement Plan which aims to minimise the amount of litter dropped on city streets and creating a cleaner, more welcoming environment.


Picture 1: Cllr Lesley Hinds and Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham beside 'smart bin'

Picture 2: Cllr Lesley Hinds and Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham examine smart bin sensor technology

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