Marine litter strategy

This refreshed marine litter strategy outlines new priority actions to tackle marine litter in Scotland, building on the work already conducted through the original strategy.

4. Strategic Directions And Actions

4.1 This section outlines the five objectives for the strategy, which incorporates activity and actions that already exist or are underway within the marine and, where appropriate, the terrestrial context.

4.2 New actions under each strategic direction will complement current activity.

4.3 A new action plan, with full details of the actions outlined in this section including timescales and organisations responsible for the work, is included in the Supporting Documents.

Strategic Direction 1:

Improve public and business attitudes and behaviours around marine and coastal litter, in co-ordination with the National Litter and Flytipping Strategy

4.4 Research suggests that the majority of marine litter originates from terrestrial sources. Meeting the challenge of addressing marine litter levels will depend on businesses and individuals, whether at sea or ashore, playing their part by recognising and taking responsibility for their own actions.

4.5 There are currently a range of initiatives aimed at: reducing marine litter, raising awareness of the problem, or changing behaviour.

Action to date has included:

The Scottish Government, with Zero Waste Scotland, has:

  • Developed a communications toolkit for delivery partners and a behaviour change marketing campaign to discourage littering.
  • Started work to better understand links between enforcement delivery and the legal system, in regard to littering and flytipping.
  • Supported the Transport Litter Group's Litter Week of Action to cut litter on the transport network.
  • Committed to working with the fishing sector and coastal communities to develop proposals to tackle the issue of fishing litter and lost gear.
  • Hosted the British-Irish Council Marine Litter Symposium in 2019, where a joint commitment was made to improve collection and recycling of end of life fishing gear.
  • Hosted an international marine conference in 2019, where the Trial Period campaign was launched to encourage the use of reusable sanitary products.
  • Committed to introducing a deposit-return scheme for glass, metal, and plastic drinks containers (to be launched 16 August 2023).
  • Taken forward legislation to:

- Increase the fixed penalties for litter and flytipping, from £50 each, to £80 and £200 respectively.

- Create powers for Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park to issue fixed penalties for littering and flytipping.

- Create a requirement for alleged littering offenders to provide their name and address to enforcement officers.

- Update the Code of Practice for Litter and Refuse, which improved clarity around duties to prevent and clean up litter under section 89 of the Environmental Protection Act (1990).

- Discourage large-scale flytipping, with new powers for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and action by Revenue Scotland and SEPA to recover landfill tax from illegally deposited wastes.

- Introduce a charging scheme for single-use carrier bags, a highly visible form of litter, from October 2014.

- Implement a ban on the manufacture and sale of rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads, such as shower gels and toothpastes, from June 2018. Microbeads are a persistent and harmful form of marine litter.

- Implement a ban on the sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds, a highly prevalent form of marine litter, from October 2019.

Actions from other organisations include:

  • Keep Scotland Beautiful initiated its Upstream Battle project in 2018. The project works with local communities to inform and educate, in order to change littering behaviours. A network of volunteers have adopted sections of rivers and waterways, and collect and record litter to prevent it reaching the sea.
  • The KIMO Fishing For Litter project has been running in Scotland since 2005. The project involves fishing boats returning marine litter hauled up in their nets to port for safe disposal. The long-term objective of the project is to influence the attitudes and behaviours of fishers, and to increase awareness amongst the fishing industry of the negative impact of marine litter.
  • KIMO and Fidra have produced a community toolkit and best practice guidance for owners, maintenance organisations and users of artificial sports pitches, to reduce this source of microplastic pollution. Scottish Government is working with stakeholders to support the implementation of this Pitch In guidance in Scotland.
  • Scottish Water introduced the Keep the Cycle Running public information campaign, to provide advice on the correct disposal of sanitary items, oils, and fats, in order to prevent sewer blockages.

Planned new actions:

  • In co-ordination with the National Litter and Flytipping Strategy delivery team, strengthen the enforcement of litter and flytipping regulations.
  • Contribute to the development of a waste management scheme to improve recycling routes for end of life fishing and aquaculture gear.
  • Contribute to the work to develop a standard for the circular design of fishing gear, to facilitate better waste management and improve opportunities for recycling.
  • Extend access to Port Waste Reception Facilities to fishing vessels, to facilitate responsible end of life gear disposal without additional charges.
  • Support the waste sector to expand recycling opportunities to include degraded and contaminated marine plastics, including fishing gear.
  • Run an awareness raising campaign to promote behaviour change and highlight inappropriate flushing of sanitary items.

Strategic Direction 2:

Reduce marine and coastal based sources of litter, with a focus on the most problematic sources, in co-ordination with land sourced litter being reduced by the National Litter and Flytipping Strategy

4.6 Marine litter stems from two sources: land based sources, and sea based sources. There needs to be an integrated approach to address marine litter and stop it at source.

Action to date has included:

4.7 Significant progress has been made, in particular via work with the plastics industry.

The Scottish Government has:

  • Supported Water UK in their work to develop and promote a 'Fine to Flush' standard across British waste water companies, and encourage wet wipe manufacturers to adopt these standards. The Fine to Flush certification prohibits the use of plastics in these products.
  • Supported the plastic industry's Operation Clean Sweep®, a voluntary initiative to implement handling best practice to prevent pellet loss.
  • Formed the Scottish Plastic Pellet Loss Steering Group (PPLSG). The membership spans the industry supply chain from producer through to transporters and retailers, plus NGOs, regulatory bodies and other relevant organisations.
  • Building on Operation Clean Sweep®, the PPLSG commissioned a report and action plan to prevent the loss of plastic pellets, powders and flakes across the supply chain.
  • Following the supply chain report, Scottish Government sponsored the first industry pellet handling standard, the Publicly Available Specification 510 (PAS).
  • The PPLSG developed minimum requirements for a certification scheme to enable businesses implementing good practice, as per the PAS, when handling or managing pellets to demonstrate this publicly with external auditing and a transparent, public registry.
  • Following a public consultation, Scottish Government brought in legislation on 1 June 2022 to restrict the sale or commercial supply of a number of single-use plastic items including plastic cutlery, straws, and food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene.

Actions from other organisations include:

  • Ship waste management plans and inspections of Garbage Record Books under the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Pollution by Garbage and Sewage) Regulations 2008.

Planned new actions:

  • Promote the PAS standard on plastic pellets, flakes and powders across Scottish businesses and the British-Irish Council Region.
  • Ensure the minimum requirements are met in the development of a certification scheme to demonstrate implementation of third party auditing of the sites handling or managing plastic pellets.
  • Review uptake of the PAS, and membership of an international certification scheme once developed.
  • Give support to the development or trials of new tools or technologies that could be of use to the Scottish fishing industry, in order to achieve successful retrieval of lost fishing gear.
  • Work with the British Standards Institution and the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) to ensure all elements of the waste hierarchy are reflected during the development of the CEN standard for circular design of fishing and aquaculture gear, including specifications to address gear loss.
  • Investigate the potential for legislation to ban the manufacture and sale of wet wipes containing plastic.
  • Taking an evidence-based approach, consider a range of policy options to reduce sources of sewage-related debris.
  • Increase monitoring of Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs). Expand the network of permanent Event Duration Monitoring (EDM) facilities across the CSOs in Scotland.
  • Continued development of Event Duration Monitoring (EDM) programme, to install permanent EDM facilities in Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs).
  • Development of solutions at Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) to reduce the quantity of sewage-related debris released during spill events.
  • Better understand the impact of sewage-related debris by carrying out focused Aesthetic and Feasibility Studies.

Strategic Direction 3:

Support the removal of marine litter from the marine and coastal environment

4.8 Significant action is already underway from a wide variety of organisations. These range from small community groups to national NGOs. Some of these initiatives have been in existence for many years or decades, and play a significant part in Scotland's work to tackle marine litter. Notable current actions are listed below. As this is an area of importance covered by a vast number of groups and individuals, this section gives an indication of the range of initiatives underway.

Action to date has included:

The Scottish Government has:

  • Committed £500,000 to begin to address the problem of litter sinks around the coast and to develop policy to address marine plastics, which has involved working with community groups. Arrochar (Loch Long) was identified as a case study area and is being monitored and maintained. 1,002 tonnes of litter has been removed from this litter sink between 2018-2022.
  • Funded KIMO's Fishing For Litter project, which supports fishermen to remove and bring ashore litter that they catch in their nets.
  • Funded Local Coastal Partnerships around Scotland, who all have a role to play in supporting beach cleans and other efforts to reduce marine litter.
  • Funded SCRAPbook, a collaborative project between the Moray Firth Partnership, Sky Watch and Marine Conservation Society, to map the litter hot spots around Scotland's mainland coastline and support their clean-ups.

Actions taken by other organisations:

  • Keep Scotland Beautiful's Clean Up Scotland campaign has supported thousands of volunteers each year to clean up in their local area and on beaches, preventing litter from ending up in waterways and potentially in the sea. The flagship Spring Clean event is held annually across the country.
  • The Marine Conservation Society has run its UK-wide beach cleaning project Beachwatch since 1993. The annual flagship event, the Great British Beach Clean, involves thousands of volunteers removing tonnes of litter from the coastline each year.

Planned new actions:

  • Explore a mechanism to assist communities to reduce costs in disposing of large volumes of collected beach litter.
  • Expand the Keep Scotland Beautiful Upstream Battle project or equivalent riverine project.
  • Promote the KIMO Fishing for Litter scheme, in order to increase the total number of vessels participating.
  • Through pilot project(s), quantify the practical, economic and logistical challenges of recycling (fouled) marine litter.
  • Support the installation of riverine litter removal technology in the River Clyde, working with local stakeholders.

Strategic Direction 4:

Improve monitoring at a Scottish scale and develop measures for strategy evaluation

4.9 It is widely recognised that the current evidence base for the levels of marine and coastal litter is limited, and the strategy seeks to build on existing data capture and management measures so that we can help deliver appropriate and reliable data. This could help provide information on the types, quantities and distribution of marine litter, to provide an insight into the associated problems and threats and to increase public awareness of the condition of the coastline.

4.10 The UK Marine Strategy is being implemented in a co-ordinated way across the UK Administrations. The UK Marine Strategy Part Two sets out proposals for UK monitoring programmes to monitor progress towards GES, which will be reflected in the Marine Litter Strategy. Data collected for GES monitoring will facilitate reporting on whether the Marine Litter Strategy's aims and objectives are being met.

Action to date has included:

Multiple actions which contribute to OSPAR monitoring programmes:

  • Voluntary action through beach litter surveys using best practice techniques and OSPAR guidelines.
  • Monitoring of seabed litter and floating microplastic litter is conducted by surveys carried out by Marine Scotland vessels.
  • Monitoring of microplastic litter is conducted through sampling dead fulmars for microplastics in stomach contents.
  • Research into a monitoring programme for microscopic plastic particles.

Additional actions:

  • Fidra's Great Nurdle Hunt is a citizen science project recording the presence of plastic pellets on UK beaches.

Planned new actions:

  • Increase engagement with the Fishing for Litter project and improve the quality of data collection.
  • Expand the suite of OSPAR monitoring beaches, and ensure appropriate monitoring data is available to the Quality Status Report 2023 assessment team.
  • Contribute to the development of an agreed methodology for inter-tidal microplastic monitoring.
  • Use a public attitudes survey to obtain data on how the Scottish public values their marine environment.
  • Improve monitoring and understanding of sources of Scottish island beach litter.

Strategic Direction 5:

Maintain and strengthen stakeholder co-ordination in Scotland, the UK, regionally, and globally

4.11 Marine litter is a cross-boundary challenge that spreads across a variety of scales and requires action from the local to the international level. The strategy aims to influence actions within its direct sphere of Scotland, and more broadly at the UK, regional, and international levels.

Action to date has included:

  • A Marine Litter Strategy Steering Group was formed by Marine Scotland, comprised of Scottish Government agencies, NGOs, industry, regulatory bodies and others. This stakeholder group meets regularly to share good practice, monitor outputs, and continue to develop the strategy.
  • Scottish Government contributed to the development of the UK Marine Strategy.
  • Scottish Government is a member of OSPAR's Intersessional working group for marine litter, and has supported delivery of the Regional Action Plan for Marine Litter work streams, including Action 52 on plastic pellet loss.
  • Scottish Government has contributed to OSPAR work to produce an updated Regional Action Plan for Marine Litter.

Planned new actions:

  • Expand communications and understanding of Marine Litter Strategy work with delivery partners and relevant organisations.
  • Collaborate with UK Government and Devolved Administration colleagues on litter policies relevant to Scotland.
  • Increase engagement with OSPAR through participation, and leading on relevant actions in the Regional Action Plan for Marine Litter.
  • Strengthen co-ordination across the British-Irish Council region by identifying tasks for collaboration regarding shared marine litter problems.



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