Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse (Scotland) 2018

This Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse (COPLAR) provides guidance on fulfilling the duties under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, Section 89.

3.0 Fulfilling the duties – considerations

This chapter explains factors that apply to both duties. Subsequent chapters focus on specifics for each duty.

3.1 The standard

In order to fulfil the duties, each body’s areas should be clear of litter and refuse and/or clean. This is ‘the standard’ and it is referred to as ‘Grade A’ for each duty.

Where there is deterioration from the standard, a body is expected to restore it. There are three points to consider:

  • the scale of an area’s decline
  • the area’s character and use
  • how quickly a body should restore the area to the standard.

This code provides a series of grades to determine how well an area meets the standard for each duty or how significant its deterioration is. The grades are:

Duty 1 Litter and Refuse Grades: six grades, A to F

Duty 2 Detritus Grades: four grades, A to D

The grades are set out in chapters 4.1 (Duty 1) and 5.1 (Duty 2) using photographic examples and descriptions.

Subsequent chapters explain that by combining the grades with action to zone land and roads (to take account of its character, use and any additional circumstances) bodies can prioritise how quickly they should restore an area to the standard.

Defining the standard as a Grade A supports bodies in demonstrating fulfilment of each duty. Other grades indicate how far from that standard an area is. The grades provide bodies with a way to measure attainment or deterioration, and evidence their progress.

Further advice can be obtained from Zero Waste Scotland

3.2 Zoning (how should different types of land and roads be treated?)

The first step towards fulfilling either duty is for bodies to categorise their land/roads as one of six zones – based on how busy each area is, and how many potential sources of litter it has. Annex A provides full details.

This code links the zone categories to the maximum time a body has before it should restore an area to the Grade A standard. (The maximum response time is determined by how far from the standard a zone has deteriorated, see 4.3 for Duty 1 and 5.3 for Duty 2).

The zoning process also provides valuable insight into sources and root causes of litter and refuse – which helps bodies to decide which preventative tactics to deploy.

Allocating zones

It is considered that two factors affect the rate an area declines, which are common to all land and road types:

1. Footfall/vehicle intensity is defined as the average hourly footfall over a seven-day period within the specific zone boundary. It is not expected that footfall/vehicle movement will be known for all areas of land. Annex A therefore provides a guide, which allows local knowledge to be applied in considering how busy an area is.

2. Potential Litter Sources ( PLSs) are considered to be premises or sites that are a potential source of litter. PLSs have varying degrees of risk of litter being generated and therefore have been split into two groups (high risk and moderate-low risk) based on the type of premises and types of litter associated with the premises. This includes but is not limited to:

High Risk

Moderate – Low Risk

  • Fast food/food on the go outlets
  • Major regular event locations
  • Public houses/nightclubs
  • Secondary schools
  • Betting establishments
  • Bank ATMs
  • Leisure facilities
  • Primary schools

Where a combination of sources exists, four moderate-low risk PLSs should be regarded as one high risk PLS e.g. four high risk and eight moderate-low risk would become six high risk for the purpose of assigning a zone category.

Areas subject to a significantly higher volume of footfall/traffic than normal for a short period of time, such as one-off events, should be upgraded to the appropriate zone classification on a temporary basis. The original zone classification would resume thereafter.


Categorising zones in this manner will standardise the measurement of intensity of land/road use and potential litter sources across all bodies with responsibility for fulfilling these duties. This shared starting point (and the code’s grades) supports comparison of results, and the sharing of good practice, across bodies.

Bodies should assess and allocate their land/roads to the appropriate zone/s and make their findings easily accessible to members of the public – ideally by publishing the results digitally and online. Publications should also identify which duty response times apply and, for Duty 1, which response band. (See point 4.3).

Zoning should be completed within one year of this code coming into effect and updated when a significant change to an area’s use takes place. Zones should also be reviewed every two years to ensure they still reflect the use of the area. (Please note this does not mean a full rezone of land).

Restoring areas to comply with the duty/ies

These duties apply seven days a week throughout the year, and this code sets the maximum times that bodies have to restore areas to the standard when their grades deteriorate. Bodies are free to set themselves more challenging response time targets. They should also take account of complaints about an area’s condition.

The principle behind how quickly an area should be restored is that a significant deterioration should be restored as a priority – to prevent accumulations occurring. So the bigger or more dangerous a litter or detritus problem is, the faster it should be tackled. For minor deteriorations, longer response times are acceptable.

Response times are outlined in 4.3 for Duty 1 and 5.3 for Duty 2.

In most zones, the standard can be restored within a body’s normal operational hours. If the standard in zones 1-3 falls in the evening, this code recognises that it may not be practical to restore to Grade A within the response times identified. The time between 20:00 and 06:00 the following day can therefore be discounted for the purposes of assessing compliance. If the standard should fall to an unacceptable level during the evening, it should be restored to Grade A by 08:00.

Work schedules should be co-ordinated where responsibilities for different tasks are divided between departments or different organisations. For example, where responsibility falls to two separate bodies (or internal teams) for litter picking and grass cutting responsibilities or for Duty 1 (to keep land clear) and Duty 2 (keeping roads clean).

The code provides ‘special consideration’ response times for zones 1-5 to account for:

  • Health and safety requirements to help keep the staff safe before they litter pick: such as roads where traffic management needs to be installed.
  • Specialist equipment being required for removal of materials or access to an area. For example, accumulations of chewing gum, restricted access canal embankments, railway tracks within 100m of platform end.

Special considerations are relevant to all zones, with the exception of Zone 6, as it already builds in extra time.

Additionally, bodies will wish to consider what is practicable and what is not practicable within the normal and special consideration timescales set by this code to restore areas covered by each duty.

For example:

  • it may be considered impracticable to expect bodies to meet the duty on Christmas Day and/or New Year’s Day, therefore they can be discounted for the purposes of assessing compliance
  • it may not be practicable to meet the duties due to severe weather conditions or special events
  • other legal obligations that could influence how practical it is to fulfil the duties or to do so within the code’s response times. E.g. the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 [22] which protects nesting birds.

In such cases, every effort must be made to restore areas at the earliest opportunity.

It is up to the body to evidence why the special consideration times were applied or if it believed it was not practicable to fulfil their duty.

The purpose of zoning is to take account of differences in footfall and/or activities that influence how quickly an area can become littered. For example, within a town centre, a B litter and refuse grade area could rapidly become a D while on a country lane it could remain as a B for several days. By allocating zones, a body can adjust for this (which will help when planning how to meet its duty and restore zones to standard).

Further advice can be obtained from Zero Waste Scotland

3.3 Monitoring

To fulfil their duty/ies, bodies will wish to know that their zones are retaining the Grade A standard or, if areas have deteriorated, that restorative action is required.

Bodies should therefore have a monitoring regime that is robust and:

  • identifies the scale of deterioration (using the COPLAR grades)
  • supports restoration to standard within the appropriate response time (see chapter 4.3 for Duty 1 and/or 5.3 for Duty 2)
  • takes account of where litter is most likely to occur (i.e. higher footfall areas are more likely to be affected than lower footfall areas).

Monitoring will help bodies to understand the effectiveness of their tactics in meeting the standard for each duty. For example, areas that are consistently graded as a D or E are not close to meeting the standard, and intervention tactics should be reviewed and adjusted.

By monitoring, each body will build evidence:

  • that its land is/roads are correctly zoned
  • it is complying with the code
  • its duty/ies are being fulfilled.

In line with Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations [23] , details collected by Scottish public bodies should be publically accessible. Bodies are therefore encouraged to regularly publish the findings of their approaches to inspect and quantify progress.

This supports consistency across bodies and helps them to compare approaches, share good practice and benchmark.

The purpose of monitoring is to:

  • identify how often areas being monitored are likely to need to be restored
  • identify what action will help areas being monitored to meet or maintain the standard
  • measure the level of deterioration from the standard – using the grades
  • restore areas being monitored to the standard within the appropriate response time.

Further advice can be obtained from Zero Waste Scotland


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