Litter strategy - five years on: review

Review of our national litter strategy "Towards a litter free Scotland: a strategic approach to higher quality local environments,” published in 2014.

3. A summary of the past five years' action

Throughout the review process, it has been acknowledged that while some areas of activity could have gone better, a great deal of excellent collaborative work has been carried out over the past five years by a range of partners and stakeholders across Scotland. The following is a summary of some of the activities that have taken place during the five years of the Strategy (2014-2019). This list is not exhaustive and further examples can be found in Appendix 2, along with more details of additional activities at strategic and national level.

Communication and engagement

  • Scottish Government's "Dirty Little Secret," motivated people to stop littering as their peers found it socially unacceptable
  • Keep Scotland Beautiful's roadside litter campaign, "Clean Up Scotland and Give Your Litter a Lift"

Product and service design

  • The single use carrier bag charge commenced in 2014, which has reduced their use by 80% and therefore their potential to become litter.
  • In May 2020, the Scottish Parliament passed Regulations to establish a Deposit Return Scheme, with a target of capturing at least 90% of in-scope containers from the third full year of operation onwards.

Strategic support

  • Review of the 2006 Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse (CoPLAR) and adoption of the CoPLAR 2018, which embedded prevention into service delivery.
  • A new Litter Monitoring System and methodology which was aligned with CoPLAR 2018. Transition to the new method is still underway and will allow spatial data to be collected on the amount and types of litter found.
  • Through their annual Great British Beach Clean, the Marine Conservation Society has built up a valuable data base of information about the litter that arises on Scotland's beaches. This citizen science has contributed to the evidence that led to the ban, in October 2019, of plastic stemmed cotton buds being sold in Scotland, as they are in the top five most common items found on Scotland's beaches.


  • Legislation was consulted on in the proposals for a Circular Economy Bill[1] that would have included a provision to introduce charges on items, such as single-use coffee cups, and provision for a new enabling power that would have allowed:
    • a fixed penalty notice to be issued to the registered keeper of a vehicle when a littering offence has been committed from that vehicle
    • enforcement authorities in Scotland to be given similar powers to those in England to seize vehicles linked to waste crime, such as flytipping;
    • a charge to be placed on single use items such as beverage cups.



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