National litter and flytipping consultation: business and regulatory impact assessment

Partial business and regulatory assessment (BRIA) for the proposed actions for the National Litter and Flytipping Strategy.

1.0 Title of Proposal: Litter and Flytipping Strategy

This document is the partial Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) for the proposed litter and flytipping strategy. Following consultation, a final BRIA will be developed and published, building detail into the current proposal. The partial BRIA is written subject to the best available information at the time.

1. Purpose and Intended Effect

  • Background

2. Litter and flytipping are well-documented indicators of local environmental quality and have significant negative environmental, economic, and health implications.

3. Litter and flytipping are defined as follows:

Litter is waste in the wrong place: It can be all kinds of man-made materials. The Environment Protection Act (1990) defines littering as 'throwing down or dropping an item in any public open space'.[1]

Flytipping is illegal dumping of waste – from a bin bag of household waste to large quantities of domestic, commercial, or construction waste.[2]

4. Research indicates that at least 15,000 tonnes of litter is disposed of into our urban and rural environment and is subsequently cleared by local authorities every year. This is comprised of around 250 million easily visible items.[3]

5. A further 26,000 tonnes of waste are flytipped each year and dealt with by local authorities, with an estimated 61,000 incidents occurring per year. This estimate excludes the vast majority of cases on private land[4]. For both litter and fly tipping, these figures are likely to represent an underestimate due to data limitations.

6. Litter and flytipping have both direct and indirect costs for society. Scotland spends at least £53 million of public money on litter and flytipping each year in direct costs (for clearance, education and enforcement activities). Indirect costs are the negative impacts or consequences of litter that impact on society more widely, for example encouraging other crimes, mental health and wellbeing. Research suggests that indirect costs are likely to exceed £25 million. This cost does not include a comprehensive estimate for marine litter.

7. Items littered or flytipped represent resources and value lost to the Scottish economy. It is estimated that 80% of the litter stream consists of potentially recyclable material, and 50% of material could be easily recycled, had it been properly disposed of.[5]

8. A proportion of items littered and flytipped on terrestrial land will make their way into the marine environment. Whilst there is no exact figure for the direct and indirect costs of litter and flytipping into the marine environment, it is estimated that items littered on land now constitute 90% of plastic in Scottish seas.[6]

9. Beaches are one of the main routes for terrestrial litter to enter the marine environment, and survey data indicates that there are, on average, 558 items of litter on every 100 metres of beach in the UK. Plastic and polystyrene pieces were the most common litter item found, with wet wipes second, and packets (crisp, sweet, lolly and sandwich) third.[7]

Objective and Rationale

10. The Scottish Government proposes to introduce a new litter and flytipping strategy which follows on from the 2014 strategy 'Towards a litter-free Scotland: a strategic approach to higher quality local environments'.[8] This initial strategy was subject to a five-year review, which was due to be published in 2019, but was instead published in March 2021[9], due to a delay as a result of COVID-19. It provides a snapshot of the activities that took place within the first five years of the strategy and acknowledges that whilst progress has been made, litter and flytipping still pose a significant challenge. In March 2021, Keep Scotland Beautiful in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland and the Scottish Government hosted a litter summit.[10]

11. The new strategy will identify a suite of measures to help prevent litter and flytipping and therefore reduce the economic, social and environmental impact. It will build upon the previous five-year strategy and aims to provide an agile strategic framework to accommodate the changing landscape.

12. As this is a developing strategy area, the specific actions and related policy detail have not been defined and it is therefore not possible to identify outcomes at this stage. The actions will be co-developed with a range of stakeholders through working groups and the consultation process. The following thematic areas have been identified:

  • Behaviour change

This theme recognises the need for improved communications and engagement, but also the need to take a holistic approach to behaviour change; understanding key audiences, issues and developing a framework to identify solutions that enable behaviours to be changed. It should also be noted that the key behaviours related to littering will differ from those for flytipping. Successful measures under this theme would improve the accessibility, consistency and nature of messaging that motivates people to change their behaviour.

  • Services and infrastructure

In order for the prevention of litter and flytipping to be effective there need to be services and infrastructure in place to support people to behave responsibly. This includes services offered by local authorities, but also more widely looking to businesses and community groups. Successful measures under this theme would ensure Scotland's services and infrastructure are fit for purpose and prioritise action and innovation that proactively prevents litter and flytipping and supports a circular economy.

  • Enforcement

Enforcement and deterrents have been identified as important in preventing litter and flytipping. This stems from numerous stakeholder calls to review the enforcement process and procedures, and to attempt to understand if alternative solutions are available (such as education or volunteering for those who cannot afford to pay fines), with collaborative measures seen as crucial. Success in relation to this theme would ensure there is a strong and consistent enforcement model across Scotland that acts as a proportional deterrent.

  • Data and research

Underpinning any next steps, improved data is crucial to successfully understanding the root causes of the issue, evaluating the success of any interventions, collaborating successfully and monitoring progress. This includes reporting of issues by the public and communities, national reporting and monitoring, citizen science and measurable outcomes. Success for this theme would include an improved understanding of the behaviours, attitudes and drivers behind both littering and flytipping behaviours and developing an evidence base that can facilitate the implementation and monitoring of effective policy interventions.

13. Despite current efforts and strategies, the problem of littering and flytipping in Scotland has not improved in recent years[11]:

14. The perception of litter and flytipping is linked to economic and social impacts for communities. For example, poor local environmental quality threatens Scotland's tourism industry, as scenery and landscape are the most important factors motivating people to visit Scotland1[12]

15. Maintaining good local environmental quality can produce positive impacts for communities. People are significantly less likely to litter in a clean local environment compared to a dirty one[13]. Additionally, good local environmental quality has a positive effect on local economies through[14]:

  • Encouraging investment in regeneration.
  • Encouraging retailers to open in vacant spaces.
  • Raising property values.
  • Lowering the cost of living through lower car use.

Ultimately, the unsustainable use of resources is fundamentally linked with the drivers behind poor local environmental quality and litter and flytipping. Whilst the strategic aims are yet to be defined there is potential for the strategy to achieve the following (dependent on the specific actions identified):

  • Reduce the volume of waste created
  • Increase the volume of materials entering recycling
  • Divert materials from landfill
  • Reduce the amount of waste entering Scotland's rivers, lochs and seas
  • Improve local environments and neighbourhoods
  • Encourage wider behaviour change around materials

16. Litter and flytipping are losses of material from the circular economy, so reducing litter and flytipping could help Scotland progress towards its 2025 waste targets, accelerating Scotland's transition from a 'linear' economy which is environmentally unsustainable and energy and resource intensive to a more resource efficient and sustainable circular economy.

17. With reference to the National Performance Framework, directly applicable strategic objectives are:

  • We value and enjoy our built and natural environment and protect it and enhance it for future generations[15].
  • We reduce the local and global environmental impact of our consumption and production[16].
  • Our public services are high quality, continually improving, efficient, and responsive to local people's needs[17].
  • We live in well-designed, sustainable places where we are able to access the amenities and services we need[18].

18. Directly applicable from the Measurement Set[19] are:

  • Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Improve Scotland's reputation
  • Improve people's perceptions of their neighbourhood
  • Improve the condition of protected nature sites
  • Increase natural capital
  • Improve the state of Scotland's marine environment
  • Reduce Scotland's carbon footprint
  • Reduce waste generated

19. Enacting the measures contained within the litter and flytipping strategy will contribute to objectives set out in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019[20].

20. The Climate Change Plan: Third RPP 2018-2032 was published in February 2018 and sets out plans to achieve decarbonisation of the economy in the period to 2032, making progress towards the target of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050. An update to the Climate Change Plan was originally due to be published in April 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. An update to the climate change plan was instead published in December 2020.[21]

21. In 2015, the Scottish Government signed up to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals[22]. The ambition behind the goals is to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Enacting the measures within the litter and flytipping strategy will have a positive impact on a number of these goals, most explicitly Goals 12, 13, 14 and 15:

  • Responsible Consumption and Production
  • Climate Action
  • Life Below Water
  • Life on Land

22. Finally, enacting the proposals within the litter and flytipping strategy will contribute to the Just Transition Plan objectives set out in A Fairer, Greener Scotland[23], the Government's Programme for Scotland 2021-22:
"We will also protect our natural and marine environments for generations to come – reversing ecological decline, and ensuring nature-based solutions are central to our climate obligations

Enacting the measures within the litter and flytipping strategy will also contribute towards the continuation of the objectives set out in the original 2014 strategy 'Towards a litter-free Scotland: a strategic approach to higher quality local environments', which were motivating people to:

  • Stop littering
  • Stop flytipping
  • Increase recycling in public places



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