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.

4. Review findings

4.1 Review of the 12 interventions

A large number of comments and ideas were collected and collated by the independent facilitator from the three workshops and the stakeholder event. The 12 interventions were divided into four categories (Communication & Education, Product & Service Design, Strategic Support, Enforcement), to help structure discussion, for the purposes of the review. The following summarises the findings of the review, including examples of best practice as identified by the steering group. This section also outlines briefly reflections from the steering group on what they thought could have been better and proposals for future action.

4.1.1 Communication & Education, encompassing communication, education and community action

What went well?

  • Changeworks' Flyspotting campaign (see Example 1)
  • Angus Clean Environment's litter prevention action plan and on-the ground-delivery
  • Sunnyside Primary School's #DrainCampaign (see Example 2)
  • Keep Scotland Beautiful's Upstream Battle (see Example 3)

What could have been better?

  • Campaigns could have been harder hitting
  • Promotion of resources already created and encouraging their use
  • Improvement of engagement with business communities

What could the future focus be?

  • Campaigns/activities could be better coordinated and evaluated
  • Linking littering to the climate change conversation
  • Beyond school gates- education for adults and businesses
  • Engaging with young people beyond primary school.

Example 1

#DrainCampaign was launched by Sunnyside Primary School in Glasgow to remind people that litter dropped in urban playgrounds and streets can go down the drain into the ocean and wash up on a beach. Pupils created a series of sassy, Scottish characters based on the sea creatures that our litter is harming and drew ocean scenes in chalk around the drains in their playground. They also recorded a video and posted it on social media to encourage others to join in. Dozens of businesses and schools joined, with pupils around Scotland drawing ocean scenes around their own drains and playing the video in their assemblies. The team also met the First Minister, who visited them to see the campaign in action.

Example 2

Flyspotting was commissioned by Changeworks as part of its Zero Waste Leith project. Inspired by Trainspotting (filmed in Edinburgh), it delivered useful information in a friendly, funny and local way, combining the renowned Trainspotting link with portraits of well-known locals on campaign materials. It almost halved the amount of items dumped on the streets, reducing flytipping by nearly 47% with no significant rise six months later.

Example 3

Upstream Battle is an award-winning campaign, developed and delivered by Keep Scotland Beautiful, to change behaviour and prevent marine litter at source. 80% of marine litter starts life on land, by focusing on the river Clyde and its tributaries Upstream Battle aimed to bring the public, private and third sectors together with communities, schools and residents to tackle this issue collaboratively. The campaign also aimed to raise awareness, gather data and inspire action up and down the Clyde valley.

4.1.2 Product & Service Design, encompassing opportunities for recycling, product design and service design

What went well?

  • Installation of bulky bin facilities for flatted properties
  • Awareness of single use plastics raised
  • Local authorities' work on education/ increasing recycling rates
  • Paperless Ticketing introduced by Historic Environment Scotland (see Example 4)

What could have been better?

  • Investment in Local Authority recycling centres and consistency in increased opening times
  • Progress on working more closely with new housing developments' waste and recycling facilities

What could the future focus be?

  • Shared services, resources, aims and objectives within and across local authorities
  • Improving Scotland's infrastructure to support reuse/composting/recycling of commonly used materials.
  • Incentivising bin use/litter removal.

Example 4

Paperless Ticketing was introduced by Historic Environment Scotland after a successful 2017 trial with its 200,000 members, to reduce the amount of waste being created by visitors to its sites, which can all too easily become litter. At the time of this review, the organisation had avoided roughly 280,000 tickets being printed at Edinburgh and Stirling castles, and had prevented the printing of around 320,000 receipts at its smaller sites.

4.1.3 Strategic Support, encompassing guidance review, future funding & support and research & monitoring

What went well?

  • Support and guidance on how to zone land for the Litter Monitoring System, from Zero Waste Scotland
  • Data on marine litter collected by Marine Conservation Society during the Great British Beach Clean
  • Support for communities and campaigns from Keep Scotland Beautiful (see Example 3)

What could have been better?

  • Progress in tackling the issue of litter on trunk roads
  • Consistent data collection/baselines/monitoring and linking to national reporting/outcomes

What could the future focus be?

  • Better strategic and operational collaboration to take place within and between organisations.

4.1.4 Enforcement, encompassing Flytipping, strengthening the enforcement system, enforcement staff training

What went well?

  • Use of CCTV to identify offences
  • North Ayrshire Council's investment in litter and flytipping enforcement (see Example 5)
  • New fixed penalty powers were granted to SEPA to tackle low-level noncompliance with waste legislation, including flytipping

What could have been better?

  • Engagement with the Procurator fiscal in relation to the volume of fines paid

What should the future focus be?

  • More and better use of CCTV to identify offences/offenders
  • Extended producer responsibility
  • Publicise prosecutions
  • Work with the Procurator Fiscal on how to improve the quality of evidence
  • Pursue new powers that were proposed in the Circular Economy Bill.[2]

Example 5

North Ayrshire Council has continued to invest in enforcement, with what it believes to be Scotland's only dedicated flytipping enforcement team. The team created 'waste discovery letters' to send to anyone they suspect of flytipping, and they identify these suspects by analysing dumped items for evidence. The letters offer people a chance to appeal, giving the Council an opportunity to engage with them. They might, for example, admit to booking a cheap uplift 'service', knowing their waste would probably be dumped. This in turn helps the Council identify the illegal uplift operators, and serve fixed penalty notices on them. This system is a step towards changing the culture around flytipping by increasing awareness of the penalties.

4.2 The five outcomes and monitoring impact

Much of this review has focussed on the activities and outputs of the strategy, however, the success of any strategy should be measured by whether the stated outcomes have been achieved. It was felt that the five existing outcomes are not easily measurable; however, it was also acknowledged that some interventions, such as the updated CoPLAR 2018, are still in their infancy and the full impact is yet to be seen. The overall aim of the strategy is in its title, "Towards a litter-free Scotland: A Strategic Approach to Higher Quality Local Environments".

Available data indicates that overall environmental quality has not improved. However, there has been a massive attitudinal shift in the past five years, with the general public becoming increasingly engaged in litter picks (Marine Conservation Society doubled its volunteer numbers for the Great British Beach Clean between 2017 and 2018, and Keep Scotland Beautiful' s Spring Clean volunteer numbers increased by 30% from 2018 to 2019), reducing single-use products by using re-useable coffee cups and bottles, and the rise in demand for packaging free shops (such as Locavore, which is funded by the Scottish Government). This is a significant step in the right direction and an opportunity to be further developed.

The participants also felt that while the outcomes were necessary five years ago, there would need to be new priority areas going forward for any future strategy.

4.3 Ownership/responsibility

The steering group felt connected to the strategy, however, felt they did not have ownership over the Strategy. Suggestions for improving organisational ownership included making it clearer which organisations the strategy was aimed at, what those organisations could do, and what their responsibilities were in a wider context (such as through CoPLAR). When asked how community ownership of the Strategy might be improved, feedback included:

  • Define 'community' and include businesses within this definition
  • Interpret the strategy for a local audience, by making it relevant and answering the question, "what does it mean for me?"
  • Ensure that the above is properly communicated.

The Steering Group concluded that it would have been helpful to form a group which included representatives from a range of partners to help oversee the delivery of the Strategy. Going forward, the steering group offered an approach based on multi-agency collaboration, where the Scottish Government provides the space and impetus for discussion, the work is guided by a steering group and that delivery is carried out by a range of agreed partners. Sectoral representation was deemed to be important and that organisations such as COSLA, APSE, SEPA, Network Rail, industry representatives and representatives of young people should be included. It was noted that this list of organisations was not exhaustive and should be considered carefully.

4.4 Mapping interactions with other policy areas

The group felt that the political landscape and consumer engagement has altered significantly over the past five years, meaning that while the existing strategy was relevant at the time of writing, this may no longer be the case. This wasn't necessarily a criticism of the current strategy. Instead, it was acknowledging that a number of new policy areas have now been linked to the impact (positively and negatively) of litter and flytipping.

The steering group concluded that it was a priority to map the interaction of litter and flytipping with the following areas:

  • Climate change[3]
  • Biodiversity
  • Marine Litter Strategy
  • Education
  • Community
  • Health & wellbeing
  • Inequalities/social impacts
  • Single-use plastics
  • Circular Economy
  • Waste and recycling policies, legislation and reporting
  • Extended Producer Responsibility and industry responsibility.

4.5 Other discussion areas

The following outlines additional themes that were raised during the discussions, but did not fall under any of the previous headings.

  • It is important that communities are engaged as they offer a valuable resource to help tackle litter and flytipping. However, litter picking is an endless task and preventative measures were seen as useful and positive alternatives.
  • Citizen Science could also be a valuable addition to the current local authority reporting regime.
  • Actions need to be considered within the context of partner organisation and service delivery budgets. Linking to the above point on community engagement, participatory budgeting was suggested as a potential opportunity.
  • Insufficient monitoring and evaluation of the strategy have been carried out, which makes it difficult to assess effectiveness. Any future strategy/plan should have measurable outcomes, possibly linking to national or international outcomes, a timeline for action and an ongoing means of measuring and monitoring overall progress.
  • Data, specifically around benchmarking and alignment with the statutory requirements of CoPLAR was seen as an important element that could be taken forward.



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