National litter and flytipping consultation: strategic environmental assessment

Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for the proposed actions for the National Litter and Flytipping Strategy.

2. The National Litter & Flytipping Strategy

2.1 Overview and aims

The Scottish Government, with key stakeholders, has undertaken a review[17] of the existing five year National Litter Strategy ‘Towards A Litter-Free Scotland: A Strategic Approach to Higher Quality Local Environments’[18]. The review provides a snapshot of the activities that took place within the first five years of the strategy. Whilst progress has been made, litter and flytipping still pose significant challenges.

There is recognition that there is a need to treat flytipping and litter as distinct but interrelated topics and should be addressed in the new strategy. The Environmental Protection Act (1990) defines littering as ‘throwing down or dropping an item in any public open space’[19]. Flytipping is illegal dumping of waste - from a bin bag of household waste to large quantities of domestic, commercial or construction waste[20].

Public consultation on the new ‘National Litter and Flytipping Strategy’ will commence in December 2021, with a view to Strategy being finalised and published in early 2022.

2.1.1 Scotland’s response to date

The new National Litter and Flytipping strategy will 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;
  • understand responsibilities relating to waste disposal.

The 2014 National Litter Strategy committed to a range of activities and interventions under three overarching themes of Information, Infrastructure and Enforcement[21]. A review in 2019 by Scottish Government, Zero Waste Scotland and other key stakeholders highlighted that significant progress had been made and identified a number of key successes[22]. These included:

  • shifting focus from clearance to prevention through communication and education;
  • increasing opportunities for reuse and recycling making it easier to dispose of waste responsibly; and
  • the introduction of a new litter monitoring system that will collect more detail to provide better evidence of the littering problem.

In 2015, new fixed penalty powers were granted to SEPA to tackle low-level noncompliance with waste legislation, including flytipping.

The 2019 review recognised that litter and flytipping still pose a significant challenge and a report by KSB in 2020 concluded that despite current efforts and strategies, the problem of littering and flytipping in Scotland has not improved in recent years[23].

The Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse was updated in 2018 to provide statutory bodies with the flexibility to widen their focus from clearing litter and refuse to focus on prevention.

In 2020 the Scottish Parliament passed legislation to establish Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme which will encourage the public to recycle single-use drinks containers which are commonly littered. It is expected that the introduction of the Deposit Return Scheme will result in a up to a third reduction in volume of litter in Scotland[24].

The Scottish Government is committed to matching or exceeding the standards set out by the EU Single-use plastics (SUP) directive to tackle pollution and support the transition to a circular economy. Scottish Government has laid regulations before the Scottish Parliament that will ban certain SUP from 1 June 2022. Particular articles within this directive will impact on a number of commonly littered items, including market restrictions on single-use plastic items such as single-use plastic straws and cutlery, plates, beverage stirrers [25].

2.2 The New Strategy

The new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy will treat litter and flytipping as separate but inter-related issues, allowing for improved targeting of measures to bring about change. It will build upon the previous five-year strategy and aims to provide an agile strategic framework to accommodate the changing landscape.

The new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy will support progress towards the 2025 waste targets and accelerate Scotland’s transition from a ‘linear’ economy to a more resource efficient and sustainable circular economy. In addition, a reduction in litter and flytipping will contribute to the objectives set out in the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 and the updated Climate Change Plan[26],[27], by extending the resource value of materials in these wastes and avoiding carbon emissions associated with the extraction and transport of raw materials to replace lost resources.

Reducing litter and flytipping will also contribute to four of the United Nations Sustainable Development goals (Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Life Below Water and Life on Land) as well as the Green Recovery Plan objectives set out in Protecting Scotland, Renewing Scotland, the Government’s Programme for Scotland 2020-21[28].

The new National Litter & Flytipping Strategy has the potential to achieve the following:

  • 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.

The new strategy identifies a suite of measures to prevent litter and flytipping and therefore reduce impact on local environmental quality, structured according to the following thematic areas (noting that proposals for ‘Data and Research’ in particular, may include measures that are cross-cutting with each of the other themes):

  • Behaviour change;
  • Services and infrastructure;
  • Enforcement; and
  • Data and research.

Aims and objectives are also provided for each theme (summarised in Appendix C for litter and Appendix D for flytipping). A review of the compatibility of the aims and objectives for each strategy theme against the SEA criteria for each environmental topic is included in Section 10.1.

It is noted that development of the draft National Litter and Flytipping Strategy is an iterative process and there is potential for some minor differences between the presentation of the strategy proposals in this Environmental Report and the format used in final consultation paper for the draft National Litter and Flytipping Strategy. However, the SEA has assessed the entirety of the strategy proposals and any discrepancies with the final presentation of the proposed actions is not considered material in terms of the assessment of environmental effects.

2.2.1 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.

2.2.2 Services and Infrastructure

This theme recognises that in order for prevention of litter and flytipping to be effective there needs to be services and infrastructure in place to support responsible behaviour. 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.

2.2.3 Enforcement

Enforcement and deterrents have been identified as an important link in the chain for achieving the prevention of litter and flytipping, 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.

2.2.4 Data and research

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 the development of an evidence base that can facilitate the implementation and monitoring of effective policy interventions.

2.3 Consideration of Reasonable Alternatives

The identification, development and refinement of alternatives to plans, programmes or strategies is an inherent part of sound plan and policy making. The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 formalises this and requires that the Environmental Report includes an “outline of the reasons for selecting the alternatives dealt with” (Schedule 3, (8)) and assessment of “the likely significant effects on the environment of implementing the reasonable alternatives to the plan or programme” (Section 14 (2)).

Reasonable alternatives were considered as part of a review of the existing National Litter Strategy completed in November 2019. The review identified areas of success of the strategy, good practice case studies and initial views of what the focus could be for future strategy development. The review process considered the following with respect to reasonable alternatives:

  • Do-nothing alternative

    Continuation of the existing National Litter Strategy was considered not to be viable option, i.e. a ‘Do Nothing’ scenario. Feedback from the review steering group noted that the policy landscape within which the strategy operates had altered significantly since its original publication in 2014. There was a consensus that a light touch revision would not therefore be sufficient and review participants supported a more substantive review and refresh to tackle litter and flytipping.

  • Scope of the new strategy

    The existing National Litter Strategy included messages on flytipping, however, a decision was made to update the strategy as a new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy. This approach, reflecting feedback from stakeholders, recognised that whilst they are interrelated, they are separate issues with different drivers, and the distinction allowed a tailored approach to be taken to each of them. Whilst an alternative could be to retain the existing strategy emphasis, it is not considered reasonable to do so, given stakeholders responses. Another alternative could be to develop separate strategies; however, as such an approach limits the opportunity for integration and synergies and diminishes the value of the resultant strategies, it was not considered a viable alternative in this instance.

    The inclusion of quantifiable targets for the new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy was also considered but given that the strategy includes proposals that identify the need to improve data and understanding of current sources, levels and composition of litter and flytipping, it was decided that including such targets at this stage was not appropriate but should be an area for future development.

For this SEA, Scottish Government have assumed that, taken together, the proposed actions constitute all the reasonable alternatives that could be proposed for such high-level strategies.



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