National litter and flytipping consultation: equality impact assessment

Equality impact assessment (EQIA) for the proposed actions for the National and Litter Flytipping Strategy.


Background and policy aims

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

Litter and flytipping are defined as follows;

Litter is waste in the wrong place: the wider environment. It can be all kinds of man-made materials. The Environmental 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]

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 composed of around 250 million easily visible items.[3]

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.3

For both litter and flytipping these figures are likely to represent an underestimate due to data limitations.

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, crime, 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.3

Litter and flytipping are indicators of the unsustainable use of our resources, and a leak from a circular economy. 80% of the litter stream consists of potentially recyclable material and 50% material could have been easily recycled, had it been properly disposed of.3 This unsustainable resource loss has a clear link to fundamental environmental challenges surrounding climatic change.[4]

Items littered in the terrestrial environment are part of a broader system, with many transported to the marine environment via fluvial pathways and other routes. Items littered on land in Scotland are now thought to constitute 90% of plastic in Scottish seas.[5]

The strategy will identify a suite of measures to prevent litter and flytipping and therefore reduce impact on local environmental quality. It will build upon the previous five year strategy ‘Towards A Litter-Free Scotland: A Strategic Approach to Higher Quality Local Environments’[6] and aim to provide an agile strategic framework to accommodate the changing landscape. A review of the National Litter Strategy was completed in 2019 and provides a snapshot of the activities that took place within the first five years of the strategy.[7] Whilst progress has been made, litter still poses a significant challenge. In March 2021, Keep Scotland Beautiful in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland and Scottish Government hosted a litter summit;[8] this provided an opportunity to reflect on work that had been carried out under the first strategy and start to define future priorities for tackling litter.

As this is a developing strategy area, the specific actions and related policy detail have not been fully defined and it is therefore not possible to identify outcomes. 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 litter 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 prevention of litter and flytipping to be effective there needs 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 an important link in the chain for achieving the prevention of litter and flytipping. This has been identified from numerous stakeholder calls to review the enforcement process and procedures, and 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 successful 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 develop an evidence base that can facilitate the implementation and monitoring of effective policy interventions.

Who will it affect?

The National Litter and Flytipping strategy will be applied across Scotland and does not specifically target particular sections of society. The policy is not anticipated to have a significant disproportionate impact on people with one or more of the protected characteristics.

What might prevent the desired outcomes being achieved?

The design of an impactful strategy for Scotland, which aims to reduce litter and flytipping will be informed by evidence gathered, including during the statutory consultation period. No significant barriers have been identified at this stage.

About the Equalities Impact Assessment (EQIA)

In developing this policy change, the Scottish Government is mindful of the three elements of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED):

  • To eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
  • To advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
  • To foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

A policy measure may positively impact on one or more of the protected characteristics, while having a disproportionately negative impact on others. Where any negative impacts are identified, we seek to mitigate or eliminate these. We are also mindful that the PSED is not just about addressing negative impacts, as we also have a positive duty to promote equality.

Equality legislation covers the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, gender including pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, and sexual orientation. Marriage and civil partnership are not considered here as the Scottish Government does not require assessment against this protected characteristic unless the policy relates to work.



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