Managing waste

Litter and flytipping

Litter is waste in the wrong place and can be any man-made material or item associated with food. Flytipping describes the dumping of waste in the wrong place, and can be anything from a bin bag of household waste to large quantities of domestic, commercial or construction waste.

Every year, 250 million easily visible items are dropped as litter and 26,000 tonnes of material is flytipped. According to 2013 Zero Waste Scotland research, at least £53 million of public money is spent cleaning this up every year.

We recognise the risks that litter and flytipping pose to public health and the environment, and are committed to tackling both litter and flytipping in Scotland.

We do this primarily through our resource efficiency delivery partner, Zero Waste Scotland, who work with land owners and managers, local authorities, businesses and charities, including Keep Scotland Beautiful

See below for information on:

Litter strategies

In 2014 we published our litter strategy, Towards a litter-free Scotland: a strategic approach to higher quality local environments.

This is a five-year plan for how Scotland can significantly reduce litter and flytipping and support cleaner, safer communities. It focuses on prevention: encouraging individuals to take personal responsibility for ensuring that waste doesn't pollute the environment in the first place.

We are refreshing this strategy as a National Litter and Flytipping Strategy. This recognises that these are separate issues allows us to take a tailored approach to each. We published our national litter and flytipping strategy consultation on 13 December 2021 (open until 31 March 2022). This consultation seeks views on potential aims, objectives and actions that will sit under the new strategy.

Marine Scotland published a marine litter strategy in 2014 to address litter affecting marine and coastal environments. Marine Scotland published a consultation on a refreshed Marine Litter Strategy on 29 December 2021 which will be open until 22 March 2022.

Single-use carrier bags

We introduced a charge for single-use carrier bags from 20 October 2014. It is estimated to have reduced carrier bag use by 80% in its first year of operation.

The requirement to charge for single use carrier bags (SUCBs) used for certain types of delivery and collection has temporarily been suspended from from 29 January until 31 May 2021, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and at the request of retailers. This is to support food delivery and collection as:

  • it will speed up deliveries at a time when demand for them is increasing, allowing drivers to reach more customers
  • it will reduce contact between drivers and customers, reducing the risk of transmission, and allow deliveries to be made to those self-isolating
  • it will reduce risk of contamination from the crates being passed from driver to customer, or from drivers going into homes to offload crates

The exemption from the requirement to charge will apply to:

  • grocery deliveries, no matter how the order is placed
  • collection of groceries ordered in advance (for instance ‘click and collect’ services offered by supermarkets)
  • both the collection and delivery of takeaway food

It should be noted that this does not prevent any retailer continuing to charge for SUCBs used for these purposes if they choose to do so, and does not affect the wider charge or the existing exemptions from it.

We will consider whether the exemption should be extended beyond October and continue to monitor the situation to determine whether it should be ended earlier.

Penalties for litter and flytipping

There are fixed penalties of £80 for littering and £200 for flytipping (from 1 April 2014). Alleged offenders are required by law to provide their name and address to enforcement officers (from 1 June 2014).

Penalties can be issued by the police, by local authorities, and – since 1 April 2015 – by public bodies including Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

If the case goes to court, a person who is caught littering will have to pay a fine of up to £2,500. Someone convicted of flytipping could be fined up to £40,000 and/or imprisoned for up to 12 months.

In addition, SEPA and Revenue Scotland are able to recover landfill tax from illegally deposited wastes.

Responsibilities for tackling waste

Citizens and businesses are responsible for disposing of their own waste responsibly. Recycle for Scotland provides advice on how to reduce, reuse and recycle waste. Revolve is a re-use quality standard for shops that sell second-hand goods, and its website provides a directory of said shops.

Clearing litter from streets and public areas in Scotland is the responsibility of local authorities and statutory undertakers such as Network Rail, Scottish Canals and schools, colleges and universities, as set out by the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Transport Scotland is responsible for clearing litter from motorways and special roads, while local authorities are responsible for keeping local roads and most trunk roads clear.

Local authorities and other duty holders are free to determine how best to fulfil their duties, providing they have regard to the Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse (COPLAR) 2018.

Litter knowledge network

Through Zero Waste Scotland we have published an online resource, the litter knowledge network, which contains advice, expertise, case studies and communication materials to help communities, businesses and the public sector with litter prevention.

Charter for household recycling

In November 2015 we agreed on a Charter for Household Recycling with COSLA that aims to bring more consistency to recycling services.

Report flytipping

Anyone can report flytipping by contacting the relevant local authority directly. You can find details for the relevant local authority at GOV.UK.

If the incident you report is ongoing, is believed to be of a hazardous nature or is near a watercourse, the information will be passed to SEPA or Police Scotland.

If the waste concerned is non-hazardous, the information will be passed to the relevant local authority for investigation.

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