National litter and flytipping consultation: strategic environmental assessment

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

4. Biodiversity, flora and fauna

This section outlines the assessment of the proposals for the prevention of litter and flytipping against the scoped in topic of biodiversity. Whilst the SEA legislation does not provide any definition of the term “biodiversity” NatureScot defines biodiversity as ”all living things; the plants, animals and insects in our forests, mountains, rivers, seas, gardens and parks, right down to the things living in our soils”[41].

This section provides the contextual information to inform the assessment (in terms of the review of Plans, Programmes and Strategies (PPS) and the baseline information) as well as an assessment of the effects of the proposals for the prevention of litter and flytipping, regarding biodiversity impacts.

4.1 Relationship with other Plans, Programmes, Strategies and Environmental Objectives

The PPS that are relevant to biodiversity topic that have been reviewed to inform the assessment of the proposals for the prevention of litter and flytipping are shown in Figure 4-1 and summarised thereafter.

Figure 4-1 Plans, Policies and Strategies related to Biodiversity

Plans, Policies and Strategies (PPS)

International PPS

  • UN Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  • UN Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

European PPS

  • EU Birds Directive
  • EU Habitat Directive
  • EU Water Framework Directive


  • Environmental Protection Act

Scottish PPS

  • The Scottish Government Programme for Scotland
  • The Scottish Government 2020 Challenges for Scotland's Biodiversity
  • NatureScot: Scotland Biodiversity Progress to 2020 Aichi Targets
  • A Marine Litter Strategy for Scotland
  • Scottish Planning Policy
  • Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act
  • Scottish Biodiversity Strategy
  • Scotland's Wildlife -An Assessment of biodiversity 2010
  • Pollinator Strategy for Scotland
  • Scottish National Planning Framework
  • Scotland Biodiversity a Route Map to 2020
  • Land Use Strategy for Scotland
  • climate Change Plan: The Third Report on proposals and Policies 2018-2032
  • Towards a Litter Free Scotland

4.1.1 International level

United Nations (2015): Transforming our World - the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets out 17 global goals agreed by the United Nations. These goals are embedded within the agenda for 15 years and include commitments to protect the planet through sustainable consumption and sustainable management of resources. The new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy supports the 17 global goals in seeking to embed sustainability and resource minimisation across all sectors of society. One of the key sustainable development goals relevant to Biodiversity is Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

UN Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, including Aichi Biodiversity Targets. This Plan provided an overarching framework on biodiversity, not only for the biodiversity-related conventions, but for the entire United Nations system and all other partners engaged in biodiversity management and policy development. There are 20 Aichi targets organised under 5 strategic goals (A to E) as detailed below:

  • Strategic Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
  • Strategic Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use
  • Strategic Goal C: To improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity
  • Strategic Goal D: Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Strategic Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building

4.1.2 European level

European Commission: The EU Water Framework Directive (2000) replaces 7 previous directives and seeks to protect the water habitats in lakes, rivers, groundwater and coastal beaches. The policy aims to restore polluted waterways. The Directive combines a range of Integrated Catchment Management and introduces new ways of protecting and improving bodies of water to maximise the best environmental outcomes. The directive acknowledges the interdependency of waterways and local environs.

The Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) include measures to maintain or restore important natural habitats and species including through the designation of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). These Directives are transposed into British law through a number of regulations and planning policy documents.

4.1.3 UK level

UK Government (1990): The Environmental Protection Act seeks to improve resource use and environmental conditions through the control of pollutions from waste collections and management across the UK to protect air, water and land. The Act designates the regime for licensing of waste operations and provides the first definition of “controlled wastes” (known as Hazardous Wastes in Scotland). The Act introduces the Duty of Care for producers, carriers, importers and exporters. The Act also introduced criminal offences regarding litter in a bid to reduce littering across the UK. The Act requires the UK to tightly control the movement and handling of wastes.

4.1.4 Scottish level

Scottish Executive (2004) Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act aims to conserve biodiversity and habitats across Scotland. The Act requires public bodies and office-holders to consider the effect of their actions at a local, regional, national and international level through a new general duty. The Act extends the laws surrounding Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), of which Scotland now has over 1,400 sites, and wildlife by promoting stewardship of individual species as well as the overarching diversity of the habitats and regulates land management operations. The Act introduces a framework under which the flora and fauna of Scotland, geological and geomorphological features, can be conserved by designating the land as SSSIs. Police powers are further enhanced to protect wildlife.

Scottish Natural Heritage (2010): Scotland’s Wildlife – An assessment of biodiversity in 2010 demonstrates that of 8 priority coastal and marine habitats appraised 38% were recorded as declining, in woodlands, 28% of 31 priority species were declining, and assessments on upland species demonstrated declining numbers across the board. Overall, across Scotland, 31% of priority habitats were declining whilst 41% were improving. Overall, the assessment reports that Scotland is on target for 22 actions as of 2010, with 9 requiring improvement and 6 not on target. In a survey, adults responded positively to questions around biodiversity and an increasing proportion are members of biodiversity NGOs. The new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy for Scotland can build upon the positive behaviours of residents to better protect habitats through reduced littering and flytipping.

Scottish Government (2011): The first land use strategy for Scotland, Getting the best from our land - A land use strategy for Scotland, had the objectives of: land-based businesses working with nature; responsible stewardship of Scotland’s natural resources; and urban and rural communities better connected to the land. The vision, objectives and principles of the strategy were retained and built upon by the second land use strategy, Getting the Best From Our Land: A Land Use Strategy For Scotland 2016-2021, published in 2016. The strategy notes the declines in biodiversity across Scotland – notably in the agriculture and woodlands industries - and seeks to conserve ecosystems through better use of land including input from communities on local decisions.

Scottish Government (2014): The Scottish National Planning Framework and Scottish Planning Policy are two documents which promote waste as a resource. The framework and the planning policy recognise that the design of places can support local ecosystems and habitats. The documents note the importance of peatland habitats as both carbon stores and wildlife habitats. The documents note the importance of the planning scheme in conserving these spaces as well as ensuring a balance in safeguarding spaces whilst facilitating changes in land-deprived areas. The Framework reiterates the principles of the Land Use Strategy to make the most of Scottish assets and to take into account the costs arising from poor planning decisions.

Scottish Government (2014): A Marine Litter Strategy for Scotland identified five proposed strategic directions to reach a Zero Waste Scotland, supported by responsible behaviours. The issue of marine litter is an important topic in society today with significant efforts being undertaken across businesses and governments to eliminate marine litter. The strategy notes the harm posed to the marine environment from marine litter. The strategy seeks to address litter within the marine environment between 2013 and 2020. The objectives of the strategy are to enhance current legislation to promote effective clean-up of contaminated areas, whilst supporting local and national stakeholders to understand, and support, litter free urban areas. The strategy seeks to reduce the litter entering the marine environment, by educating visitors to reduce littering and promote recycling of wastes with ZWS (both onshore and offshore – such as fish nets), incentivising better harbourside recycling infrastructure and behaviour changes, improving monitoring protocols and recording mechanisms, in conjunction with local stakeholders. A new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy would support the drive to reduce damage across the marine environment.

Scottish Government (2014): Toward a Litter free Scotland - The National Litter Strategy sets clear actions which have an impact upon material assets, when seeking to improve the environment through targeted approaches to litter and flytipping. The strategy seeks to educate the public to adopt alternative behaviours to waste management, through access to improved recycling opportunities, improved product design, awareness campaigns and targeted exploration to tackle litter on beaches. The strategy also proposes exploring enforcement opportunities and identifying pilot solutions to litter. The new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy will enhance these actions and ambitions.

Scottish Government (2017) Pollinator Strategy for Scotland is the Governments strategy to manage the threats to pollinators from land use, habitat fragmentation, disease and pesticide. The strategy aims to “address the causes of decline in populations, diversity and range of our pollinator species and to help them thrive into the future”. By 2027, the strategy intends to embed support for pollinators into strategies and policies across the public sector, improve understanding of pollinators and to regulate imports of species to minimise disease. The new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy may support the pollinator strategy in preserving habitats and biodiversity through reductions in litter which improve habitat quality.

Scottish Government (2018): Climate Change Plan - The Third Report on Proposals and Policies 2018-2032 continues to focus on the required seven key sectors: electricity, industry, buildings, transport, agriculture, waste, and land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). The documents identified that the key pressures for biodiversity include land use intensification and modification, pollution, urban development, nutrient enrichment and over exploitation of natural resources. Climate change also poses a significant risk to biodiversity.

Scottish Executive: The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (2004) was supplemented by TheScottish Governments 2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity (2013) document; both of which combine to form the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. The aims of the 2020 challenge are to sustain and enhance the ecosystems on both land and at sea so to maximise benefits to Scotland through natural diversity and economic growth. Actions are detailed in the Scotland’s Biodiversity A Route Map to 2020. Progress is measured using the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy Indicators. The strategy brings together public bodies (SEPA, NatureScot, Local Authorities etc) to restore ecosystem health across Scotland. Land use plans will take account of nature and how nature operates so to provide valuable services to communities and the economy – supported by effective data which assesses and monitors local ecosystems. The documents note that air, water and soil quality have declined over the previous 60 years in Scotland. The strategy will encourage environmental accounting within business decision making processes, whilst government will invest in research and investment to explore ways to work with nature to reduce natural costs from business.

The biodiversity indicators will provide a focus on the identified areas and will support delivery of the principles by including specific measures to integrate biodiversity values into national and local development strategies and planning processes. The indicators include a requirement for government and businesses to implement plans for sustainable productions and consumption and to keep natural impacts within safe ecological limits.

  • By 2020 habitat loss is to be halved to brought as close as possible to zero.
  • By 2020, fish and invertebrate stocks are to be managed legally and sustainably.
  • By 2020, at least 17% of terrestrial and inland water (plus 10% coastal marine areas) are to be conserved and effectively managed.
  • By 2020, ecosystems that provide essential services related to water, health, livelihoods etc are to be restored and safeguarded.

The Scotland Biodiversity Progress to 2020 Aichi Targets, Final Report 2021[42] reports on Scotland’s progress toward 20 Aichi targets set by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. NatureScot assessed Scotland as having met nine of the twenty targets. Progress has been made on the remaining eleven but was insufficient to meet the target by 2020. Even where targets have been met, the pressures on biodiversity remain. The creation of Scotland’s National Marine Plan and the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, along with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive are all helping to focus efforts towards sustainable management in the marine environment. In December 2020 the Scottish biodiversity strategy post-2020: statement of intent[43] was published, setting the direction for a new biodiversity strategy which will respond to the increased urgency for action to tackle the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change.

Scottish Government: Protecting Scotland, Renewing Scotland: The Scottish Government Programme for Scotland 2020-2021 states the Government’s commitment to tackle climate change and to prepare Scotland for the new, low carbon world and reach the statutory commitment to be a net zero society by 2045. This Programme sets out the next phase of our Green New Deal announced in 2019. The programme protects Scotland’s biodiversity by providing Police Scotland with new resources to tackle wildlife crime, to establish independent groups to manage grouse moors and to explore management of deer populations. The programme will develop the Central Scotland Green Network – Europe’s largest greenspace project including 25 pollinator projects. A Fairer, Greener Scotland: Programme for Government 2021-22 planned to invest an additional £500 million to support the new, good and green jobs of the future, including upskilling and reskilling people.

4.2 Baseline Characteristics

Local Biodiversity Action Partnership Plans

Scottish Local Authorities have produced a range of Local Biodiversity Action Partnership Plans, written (in some instances) and supported by interest groups. The plans seek to conserve existing habitats whilst restoring lost or damaged ecosystems. The plans aim to monitor and assess current conditions in each region, whilst identifying – through partnership with local communities – actions to be undertaken to conserve habitats.

This section of the Environmental Report identifies and characterises current environmental baseline conditions for biodiversity, flora and fauna. This baseline highlights designated nature conservation sites, for example Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Sites of Special Scientific Importance (SSSIs), Ancient Woodlands, Marine Protected Areas and Ramsar (wetland) Sites. It considers current pollution of terrestrial, coastal and marine environments and the effect this has on these ecosystems, including species and habitats, and their interactions.

4.2.1 Designated Biodiversity Sites

Designated sites, including Ramsar, SPAs, SACs and SSSI sites protect flora, fauna, geological or physiographical features of outstanding quality in terrestrial and coastal environments.

Figure 4-2 identifies the designated nature conservation areas in Scotland.

Figure 4-2 Map of Nature Conservation Areas in Scotland [44]

Source: The Scottish Government (2016) Key Scottish Environment Statistics

There are also additional areas outwith the area shown on the map (65% of Special Areas of Conservation and 71% of Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas are located outside the area pictured)[45]. Designated nature conservation areas in the Scotland include:

  • As of December 2020, 161 SPAs, covering an area of 2,669,615 hectares (including three offshore SPAs covering an area of 1,011,940 hectares)[46],
  • As of 18 December 2020, 239 SACs covering an area of 2,288,674 hectares (in addition to three sites that straddle the border with England and is included under the England section above)[47],
  • As of 22 May 2018, 50 Ramsar sites covering a total area of 283,083 hectares (in addition to one site which straddles the border with England and is included under the England section above)[48], and
  • As of June 2021, 1,422 SSSIs covering 1,011,000 hectares or 12.6% of Scotland[49].
Figure 4-3 demonstrates the growth of designated areas within Scotland between 1991 and 2016.
Composition of beach litter in Clyde, Moray Firth, Orkney, Firth of Forth, East Coast and Firth of Forth Harbours between 2008 and 2017 from Marine Conservation Society surveys. Plastic is the most commonly found litter at all sites, except for Firth of Forth Harbour in 2017, where sanitary litter was most common. Figure 4-3 Designated areas: 1991-2016 (Areas thousand hectares)

Source: The Scottish Government (2016) Key Scottish Environment Statistics. Available online:

In March 2021, 78.3% of natural features on protected nature sites were assessed as being in favourable or unfavourable recovering condition[50].

Figure 4-4 below shows the condition of designated sites from 2005 and 2021[51]. In 2018 this included:

  • Favourable: 65.1%
  • Unfavourable Recovering: 6.4%
  • Unfavourable Recovering Due to Management Change: 6.7%
Figure 4-4 Condition of designated sites from 2005-2021 [52]

The reasons for unfavourable conditions are numerous, reflecting the range of sites designated, and include:

  • water pollution from agriculture/run off;
  • undergrazing;
  • inappropriate scrub control;
  • invasive species;
  • forestry and woodland management;
  • moor burning;
  • water pollution from point discharges;
  • public access/disturbance;
  • coastal squeeze.

4.2.2 Pollution of environments and ecosystems

Marine Environment

It is estimated that 267 species are affected by marine litter globally of which 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of seabird species, 43% of marine mammal species are with plastic based litter, responsible for the direct or indirect deaths of over one million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals (including 30,000 seals) and 100,000 turtles globally every year, through ingestion or entanglement[53]. Plastics account for much of the litter that ends up in the sea, as these items are lightweight and easily enter streams and rivers, which are then deposited in the ocean. When exposed to salt water and ultraviolet light, these plastic items can fragment into “microplastics” small enough to be mistakenly eaten by fish and other marine wildlife. This has knock on effects further up the food chain.

The latest assessment of beach litter from Marine Scotland includes a summary of Marine Conservation Society (MCS) surveys for five Scottish sub-regions and Firth of Forth harbours for the period from 2008 to 2017 (Figure 4-5). This highlights the prevalence of plastic and sanitary materials in beach litter for the locations during this period. However, the report covers a total of 15 sub-regions (Figure 4-6) and also identifies that the abundance of plastic bags and plastic bottles is decreasing in all of the areas assessed.

Figure 4-5 Composition of beach litter in the five Scottish sub-regions and Firth of Forth harbours averaged for 2008 to 2017, and with 2017 also shown separately (sub-regions presented are those with sufficient data for assessment) [54]
Composition of beach litter in Clyde, Moray Firth, Orkney, Firth of Forth, East Coast and Firth of Forth Harbours between 2008 and 2017 from Marine Conservation Society surveys. Plastic is the most commonly found litter at all sites, except for Firth of Forth Harbour in 2017, where sanitary litter was most common.
Figure 4-6 Map showing location of all MCS foreshore surveys, arranged in 15 subregions [55]
Map showing the location of Marine Conservation Society foreshores surveys.

The Marine Conservation has reported that based on results from the 2020 Great British Beach Clean, on average, 298 pieces of litter per 100m were collected from beaches surveyed in Scotland[56], of which 184 were plastic; a breakdown of some of the most common items collected in the survey are shown in Table 4-1[57]. This is significantly less than the 559 items/100m reported for Scotland in 2018[58] and 492 items/100m reported for 2019[59], although noting that beach litter survey data for 2020 may reflect the impact of restrictions for COVID-19. The abundance of plastic bags and plastic bottles has decreased in all areas assessed. Seafloor litter, mainly plastics, was also observed in 44% of trawls off the coast of Scotland between 2012 and 2018[60]. The composition of this is shown in Table 4-2.

Table 4-1 MCS Beachwatch data 2020: Number of commonly littered items collected per 100m on Scotland’s beaches
Category Item Description Item Average/100m
Plastic/polystyrene Pieces (0-50cm) 78.2
Sanitary Wet wipes 45.8
Plastic/polystyrene Packets (crisp, sweet, lolly, sandwich) 26.5
Sanitary Cotton bud sticks 19.9
Plastic/polystyrene String 15.6
Plastic/polystyrene Caps/lids 10.5
Paper / Cardboard Cigarette stubs 7.5
Glass Others (count) 7.5
Plastic/polystyrene Rope 4.9
Plastic/polystyrene Drinks bottles 4.7
Table 4-2 Number of items collected over 1,635 sea-floor trawls off the coast of Scotland between 2012-2018
Category Number Percentage
Plastic 1,135 74%
Rubber 127 8%
Natural Products & Clothes 92 6%
Metals 90 6%
Glass & Ceramics 16 1%
Miscellaneous 73 5%

Terrestrial Environment

While there is extensive information on the effects of litter and flytipping materials in the marine environment, the effects of these types of waste on land-based biodiversity, flora and fauna is less widely reported. The issue of microplastics observed in the marine environment is of similar concern to terrestrial ecosystems. A research study in 2017 reports that microplastic contamination on land might be 4 to 23 fold larger than in the oceans and agricultural soils might store more microplastics than oceanic basins, highlighting that more careful analyses of the dangers of microplastic pollution to terrestrial biodiversity is required[62]. The study identifies the potential for physical and chemical effects from plastic litter on biodiversity, also presenting the link between contamination of soil ecosystems and uptake of microplastic and nanoplastic decomposition products by plants and animals (see Figure 4-7).

Figure 4-7 Microplastics as trigger of combined physical or chemical-like effects [61]
Chart showing the potential for physical and chemical effects of plastic at different plastic size (litter, microplastic and nanoplastic)

In addition to contamination from plastic decomposition products, land-based animals are at risk of consuming hazardous materials present in litter and flytipping as food or becoming entangled and trapped in the waste. A study in Shetland identified £215,000 of costs associated with injuries to cattle – largely caused by plastic litter blown ashore. The same study suggests that at least £100,000 may be spent in Scotland rescuing animals caught in litter[63]. It is also recognised that animals are susceptible to the carcinogenic effects of hazardous materials that may be present in litter and flytipping materials, including asbestos[64].

4.2.3 Likely Evolution of the Baseline without the NLFS

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) set 20 global targets, known as the Aichi Targets. The 2020 review of Scotland's progress towards meeting the Aichi 2020 Targets, identifies that nine of the twenty targets were met:

  • Target 1 – Awareness increased
  • Target 2 – Biodiversity values integrated
  • Target 8 – Pollution reduce
  • Target 13 – Genetic diversity maintained
  • Target 15 – Ecosystems restored and resilience enhanced
  • Target 16 – Nagoya Protocol in force and operational
  • Target 17 – National biodiversity strategy and action plan
  • Target 18 – Traditional knowledge respected
  • Target 19 – Knowledge improved, shared and improved

Progress has been made on the remaining eleven but was insufficient to meet the target by 2020, such as Target 4: Sustainable consumption and production, and Target 5: Habitat loss halved or reduced. Even where targets have been met, the review highlights that pressures on biodiversity remain.

Reported marine litter on UK beaches has increased year on year since 2013 despite a fall in 2020. However, this could be due to reduced littering and flytipping as a result of national lockdowns in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

In the absence of the new National Litter and Flytipping strategy, littering and flytipping is expected to continue increasing as the economy returns to pre-pandemic levels. Marine and terrestrial biodiversity is likely to continue declining as a result.

4.3 Consideration of likely significant effects

4.3.1 Methodology

The new National Litter and Flytipping strategy has the potential to have a range of effects on Scottish biodiversity flora and fauna by preventing or limiting waste materials entering and affecting the environment. The assessment considers the anticipated changes to Scottish biodiversity through the implementation of the proposed actions to prevent litter and flytipping, developed across the four strategy themes: behaviour change; infrastructure and services; enforcement; and data and research.

Although the adverse impacts of litter and flytipping on biodiversity may be similar it is recognised that litter and flytipping are distinct issues with different drivers, so the assessment provides separate appraisals of the actions proposed for the Litter strategy (Table 4-3) and the Flytipping strategy (Table 4-4). The SEA criteria for assessing the effects on biodiversity, flora and fauna are listed at the start of each table. The effects against these criteria are considered against a baseline which is effectively a continuation of the existing National Litter Strategy.

4.3.2 Results

The tables below provide summary assessments of the likely significant environmental effects of implementing proposed actions to prevent litter and flytipping across the four strategy themes, with regard to biodiversity, flora and fauna. Table 4-3 presents the results of the assessment of actions for Litter and Table 4-4 present the findings assessing the actions for the Flytipping.

The key to each assessment score is shown below:

Score Key:

++ Significant positive effect

+ Minor positive effect

0 No overall effect

- Minor negative effect

-- Significant negative effect

? Score uncertain

NB: Where a box contains a “?” but also another Score Key, this indicates uncertainty over whether the effect could be a minor or significant effect although a professional judgement is expressed in the Score Key used. A conclusion of uncertainty arises where there is insufficient evidence for expert judgement to conclude an effect.

Table 4-3 Assessment of Effects of Litter Actions on SEA Criteria for Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

Litter Strategy

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

SEA Criteria:

  • To safeguard terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems, including species and habitats, and their interactions.
  • To avoid pollution of the terrestrial, coastal and marine environments.
  • To maintain or work towards good ecological and environmental status.

Behaviour Change – Actions

Overall Score: +/?

Conduct research to understand the full range of influences on littering behaviours across various contexts and audience groups.

Action Score: +/?

Develop a sustained, evidence based, national anti-littering campaign and deliver this consistently and collaboratively across Scotland.

Action Score: +


The actions for behaviour change on littering are expected to provide increased awareness of both the reasons for littering and how these interplay with impacts on biodiversity. However, the effectiveness of research in preventing the harmful impacts of littering on biodiversity are as yet unproven, so the significance of the effects from behaviour change are uncertain.

Public perception of biodiversity in green spaces presupposes a litter free environment[65]. Actions for the development of a national campaign to litter prevention and behaviour change is considered to have beneficial effects, which are likely to raise awareness of the need to safeguard ecosystems, systems and habitats from the effects of littering, avoid pollution, and improve the status of ecosystems and habitats.

Services and Infrastructure – Actions

Overall Score: +

Explore the use of flexible and innovative interventions to support litter prevention and removal.

Action Score: +

Establish an action focused group to encourage collaboration and share best practice between local authorities, national parks and other duty bodies to optimise services

Action Score: ++

Create a national litter hub to provide information and advice to community groups.

Action Score: +

Increase the use of citizen science to support data on levels and composition of litter.

Action Score: +

Carry out a review of the development, implementation and progress of the Code of Practice for Litter and Refuse (2018).

Action Score: ?


Exploring innovation and flexibility in services and infrastructure for litter prevention and removal are expected to provide original solutions to tackle littering that provide positive effects with respect to the SEA Biodiversity criteria, especially if the design of waste services and infrastructure takes into account ways to prevent pollution entering the physical environment, with subsequent safeguarding of ecosystems, systems and habitats.

Actions enabling a better communication for the community and the public services are expected to provide better direction for on the ground actions. Keep Scotland Beautiful Citizen Science Report demonstrated that data gathering from community work can be an important and useful tool supporting action on litter and informing future policy making. It is anticipated that the collaboration scheme would help avoid pollution from litter entering ecosystems, therefore increased collaboration and information sharing is assessed as having a significant positive impact on biodiversity.

Actions aimed at encouraging a national information hub can encourage a renewed motivation to eliminate litter thus protecting biodiversity, flora and fauna. Encouraging the use of citizen science is anticipated to have a positive effect on biodiversity as the aims of groups with strong public involvement, such as the Marine Conservation Society or Keep Scotland Beautiful, are aligned with the SEA Biodiversity criteria.

It is not clear whether a review of the Code of Practice for Litter and Refuse (COPLAR) will result in any changes beyond those currently established for preventing and reducing the impacts of litter in the environment, so this is considered to have an uncertain effect for biodiversity at this stage.

Enforcement – Actions

Overall Score: +/?

Conduct an evidence review of barriers to enforcement of litter offences.

Action Score: ++/?

Explore raising current fixed penalty notice amounts for a litter offence.

Action Score: +/?

Develop guidance on enforcement best practices and seek agreement for this to be voluntarily adopted by Local Authorities and National Parks.

Action Score: ++/?

Review current powers for enforcing littering offences.

Action Score: +/?

Explore potential alternative penalties to monetary fixed penalties for a litter offence.

Action Score:?

Explore using civil penalties in relation to littering offences.

Action Score:?

Create fixed penalties for the registered keeper of the vehicle for littering from vehicles.

Action Score: +/?


There is evidence to suggest that with more stringent enforcement measures, fewer litter incidences occur, for example Doncaster Metropolitan Council’s zero-tolerance policy has led to a dramatic improvement in some of the town’s busiest areas[66]. It is anticipated that an evidence review exploring barriers to enforcement and the development of best practice and better guidance for enforcement officers, will help in the implementation of existing legislation, which is considered to have the potential for significant positive effects for the prevention of littering and biodiversity. However, this would be dependent on the extent to which enforcement measures are adopted. It is considered that reviewing existing powers for enforcement also has the potential to deter littering, with subsequent benefits for biodiversity.

Scotland has already implemented measures to raise fixed penalties for littering offences. On 1 April 2014 the Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) for littering rose to an £80 penalty, up from £50. Additionally, potential fines for prosecution for littering are up to £2,500. Focus group research in Scotland has found public scepticism around the idea of fines and enforcement[67]; although fines were seen as an effective deterrent for some who feared being caught, they were also considered difficult to enforce. A report by Scottish Public Health Network (ScotPHN) identified that issues with the loss of funding for community wardens is responsible for a reduction in the number of fines issued for littering and dog fouling, with fines collected falling from £0.97m from £1.6m in three years from 2015/16[68]. The ScotPHN report states that in Glasgow, for the 3 years up to March 2018, the number of FPNs issued halved to 9,954, 46% of fines were not paid, and no unpaid fines were referred to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Over the same period the number of wardens was reduced by a third. An increase in FPNs for littering or introducing legislation to strengthen enforcement of litter from vehicles by issuing a fine to the registered keeper of the vehicle, may have positive effects for biodiversity in terms of reducing littering, although given some of the issues identified with implementation, the level of significance is uncertain.

Actions exploring the use of civil penalties and alternatives to financial penalties may assist in deterring littering, particularly where offenders cannot afford to pay fines, although further details on potential actions and effectiveness are required before the effects can be determined, so these actions are assessed as uncertain impacts for biodiversity.

Data and Research – Actions

Overall Score: +/?

Review the available litter data and approach to data collection across Scotland and reach an agreement between stakeholders on a common approach to collecting data.

Action Score: ++/?

Identify commonly littered items and litter hotspots and work with Local Authorities and other duty bodies to develop targeted interventions to reduce litter.

Action Score: +/?


Whilst consistent monitoring for terrestrial biodiversity in conservation areas has been established since 2007, littering data is limited. Keep Scotland Beautiful LEAMS data and Marine Conservation Society Beach clean-up data both provide annual sample data on litter arisings but there is no comprehensive or consistent central database for local authorities to report litter arisings. The last study to accurately estimate Scottish litter arisings was conducted in 2013. Improved consistency in data collection between duty bodies would allow for more reliable monitoring by geographic area and examine its impact on local terrestrial biodiversity.

A review of available litter data and approach to data collection would provide valuable information against which progress can be monitored and provide insight into the effects of the new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy (noting that this has close links to the optimisation of services identified in the Infrastructure and Services strategy theme). This is considered to be a significant positive impact for biodiversity.

The identification of litter composition and hotspots may help to tackle persistent littering issues, particularly where this is linked to a targeted response for intervention (which also has close links to the Infrastructure and Services strategy theme). The expected reduction of litter in the environment is considered to be a positive effect for biodiversity.

For both of these actions some uncertainty on the significance of the effects is recorded, noting that the measures are dependent on agreement and practical implementation with the relevant stakeholders.

Table 4-4 Assessment of Effects of Flytipping Actions on SEA Criteria for Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

Flytipping Strategy

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

SEA Criteria:

  • To safeguard terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems, including species and habitats, and their interactions.
  • To avoid pollution of the terrestrial, coastal and marine environments.
  • To maintain or work towards good ecological and environmental status.

Behaviour Change – Actions

Overall Score: +/?

Conduct research to understand the full range of influences on flytipping behaviour across various context and audience groups and use this to design effective responses.

Action Score: +/?

Develop a sustained, evidence based, national anti-flytipping campaign and deliver this consistently and collaboratively across Scotland.

Action Score: ++

Develop social media campaigns and guidance targeted at waste carriers and other businesses[69].

Action Score: +/?


Research into understanding influences on flytipping behaviour should help to support the development of measures that can prevent flytipping and so reduce subsequent impacts on biodiversity. There is uncertainty though whether the proposed research would enhance the existing understanding of flytippng behaviour (e.g. Zero Waste Scotland, Evidence Review of Flytipping Behaviour, 2017).

Actions relating to a coordinated national flytipping campaign are expected to produce results in relation to behaviour change. Previous national campaigns have been successful in addressing people’s behaviour especially when they are targeting the causes of flytipping. Documentaries, such as the BBC’s Blue Planet series, are also considered to have been effective at raising public awareness of the interaction between human activity and ecosystems, habitats and species, including the impact of waste materials entering the environment. Actions that build on this realisation are anticipated to have a significant positive impact in reducing flytipping. The development of social media campaigns and guidance may help to raise awareness of the need to protect biodiversity from the effects of flytipping, although the level of positive effect is uncertain as waste carriers and businesses should already be aware of the potential impacts of flytipping on the environment.

Services and Infrastructure – Actions

Overall Score: +

Support and encourage information and resource sharing between Local Authorities, waste sector, SEPA and other organisations through the flytipping forum.

Action Score: +

Explore the role of technology in assisting private landowners and land managers deter flytipping on their land.

Action Score: +/?

Produce updated guidance for private landowners on dealing with flytipping.

Action Score: +

Explore alternative financial support mechanisms available to private landowners.

Action Score: +

Explore how to support and encourage more reuse and repair of products that are commonly flytipped.

Action Score: ++/?

Explore a flexible approach to waste disposal (such as mobile HWRCs and targeted amnesties), and targeted interventions, with a view to trial these.

Action Score: +

Carry out research to create a single information point on the disposal of commonly flytipped materials.

Action Score: +


Encouraging information and resource sharing is expected to improve on the use of services and infrastructure for managing waste material from flytipping, especially if the data reporting is joined up across Scotland (i.e. from local authorities, landowners and other organisations that have a statutory duty to keep land free from flytipping). The action is considered to have a minor positive impact in terms of the SEA Biodiversity criteria, as it does not prevent material being flytipped but may help to reduce the duration that flytipped material is present in the physical environment.

Exploring the role of technology for landowners to deter flytipping could be beneficial in reducing impact of the material on biodiversity. However, the effectiveness and practicalities of implementing technological deterrents are still to be determined, so the significance of the impacts are uncertain.

The provision of further guidance to landowners (including other organisations which have an estate to manage) on managing flytipping, should help to either deter flytipping or improve the management of flytipped material, which is deemed to have some positive impacts for biodiversity. Exploring alternative financial support mechanisms for private landowners in terms of services and infrastructure for dealing with flytipped material may encourage a quicker and optimal approach for managing the waste, which limits the potential for adverse effects on biodiversity.

Support in encouraging more reuse and repair of products is considered to have potential for significant positive effects, as this would prevent items being flytipped and so remove adverse effects from waste items and pollution on ecosystems, habitats and species. Further monitoring would be required though to confirm the effectiveness of the action. Exploring a more flexible approach to waste disposal and interventions to prevent flytipping, as well as creation of a single information point, are expected to help improve the management of flytipped material through the coordination of relevant services and visibility of information on flytipping. The actions may help prevent flytipping, which should help to reduce impacts on biodiversity.

Enforcement – Actions

Overall Score: +/?

Conduct an evidence review of barriers to enforcement.

Action Score: +/?

Develop guidance on enforcement best practices, including on private land and seek for this to be voluntarily adopted by statutory bodies.

Action Score: +/?

Initially raise current fixed penalties issued by Police, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park for flytipping to the maximum (£500) and explore possibility of raising the maximum further at a later date.

Action Score: +/?

Explore raising current fixed penalties that can be issue by SEPA for flytipping offences to the maximum (£1000) and explore possibility of raising the maximum further at a later date.

Action Score: +/?

Review existing legislative powers for enforcing flytipping offences.

Action Score: +/?

Explore the ability to remove, suspend or deny Waste Carrier’s Registration to individuals/companies fined for flytipping.

Action Score: +/?

Support information sharing on flytipping incidents and offenders between Local Authorities, Police and National Parks.

Action Score: +

Create powers to enable seizure of vehicles by SEPA used in flytipping.

Action Score: +/?

Explore the possibility and benefits of using civil penalties to enforce flytipping offences.

Action Score: ?


It is understood that the low probability of being caught is one of the drivers for flytipping offences for those with low levels of guilt towards these crimes[70]. A report by Scottish Public Health Network (ScotPHN) in 2019 indicates that there have been very few prosecutions, and convictions (not including FPNs, referral to community police or verbal and written warnings) for flytipping offences, reporting that in 2017/18 there were six successful prosecutions and in 2016/17 there were seven prosecutions; 2007/08 was a peak year for convictions at 27; and in most years convictions have been approximately 12 or 13[71]. In 2017, the UK Government introduced more stringent waste management measures in England and developed new sentencing guidelines to provide tougher sentences for environmental crimes, including flytipping and other waste crimes[72]. Following the introduction of these measures local authorities in England were reported to have carried out 474,000 enforcement actions for flytipping offences in 2019/20, a decrease of 26,000 actions (5%) from 501,000 in 2018/19, and over the same time period there was a 2% increase in reported flytipping incidents, from 957,000 in 2018/19 to 976,000 in 2019/20[73]. In this instance, the effectiveness of implementing new enforcement measures is unclear, or what the effect of stricter enforcement measures may be on flytipping incidents in the long term. However, it is noted that further measures are being considered in the UK Environment Bill to develop a more targeted approach to prevent, detect and deter waste crime, including flytipping, focussed on a reform of the waste carrier, broker, and dealer regime[55].

Overall, the actions proposed in the National Litter and Flytipping strategy for a review of enforcement measures (including barriers to enforcement, existing powers, guidance on best practice, removal of Waste Carrier Registrations, and seizure of vehicles), would be beneficial in helping to understand what is effective in combating flytipping. These actions are not considered to be neutral, as a reduction in flytipping would be beneficial for biodiversity, but there is uncertainty on the level of significance for positive effects.

Sharing information on flytipping between Local Authorities, Police and National Parks should improve the opportunities for managing flytipped material and may potentially help to prevent flytipping, which would have some positive impacts for biodiversity.

From the 1st April 2014 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) for flytipping were increased from £50 to £200 (with potential fines for prosecution for flytipping of up to £40,000), although this has not necessarily reduced incidents in relation to flytipping, which some reporting indicates has increased from 38,513 incidents in 2014 to 48,250 in 2020[74]. There is research for Germany indicating that high rates of tried offenders and prison sentences can be effective deterrents against waste crime, although the severity of fines or convictions does not appear to create significant effects[75]. Also, research for the United States indicates that where conviction rates are low, the deterrent effect of a high penalty is doubtful[76]. It is considered that an increase in fines for flytipping offences should provide some form of deterrent and subsequent positive effects for biodiversity, although the level of significance is uncertain at this stage. The possibility of using of civil penalties to enforce flytipping offences may help to deter flytipping, although further details are required before the effect can be determined, so this is considered to be an uncertain impact for biodiversity.

Data and Research – Actions

Overall Score: +/?

Create a data sharing agreement and work with Local Authorities, other duty bodies, National Parks, private landowners and land managers, businesses and the third sector to improve consistency of data collected in Scotland.

Action Score: +

Explore and seek to support the use of appropriate technology in data collection.

Action Score: +/?

Work with stakeholders to improve consistency of data collection in Scotland

Action Score: ++

Explore incorporating data into a national database.

Action Score: +/?

Review the Dumb Dumpers system and ensure that a fit for purpose mechanism for citizen reporting of flytipping exists in Scotland.

Action Score: +/?

Explore the development of a live picture of flytipping across Scotland.

Action Score: 0/?


Whilst consistent monitoring for terrestrial biodiversity in conservation areas has been established since 2007, flytipping data is limited. Improved data sharing between SEPA, Police, Local Authorities and other statutory bodies would allow for better data collection and interpretation to monitor the impact of flytipping on local biodiversity, which is assessed to have a positive impact on biodiversity.

Exploration of technology to streamline and facilitate the reporting of data may improve reporting rates by local authorities and landowners, though it is not clear how this would be implemented or received by users to prevent flytipping or improve management of flytipped material. Therefore, although there is potential for positive impacts with respect to the SEA Biodiversity criteria, the significance of the benefits is uncertain.

Differences in reporting techniques between authorities means data is often incomplete and complicates interpretation of data. Therefore, a more consistent approach, including more frequent and localised data, would aid monitoring and identify areas of concern, which is expected would deliver significant benefits in assessing the overall status of flytipping in Scotland, with subsequent beneficial effects for biodiversity.

There should be positive effects from incorporating data on flytipping in a national database, that would improve opportunities to prevent or manage flytipped material and reduce impacts on biodiversity. National flytipping databases (FlyCapture and WasteDataFlow (WDF)) are currently in use. However, they have not been adopted universally by authorities and is therefore not comprehensive, so there is uncertainty regarding the significance of the benefits for this action. Similarly, a review of the Dumb Dumpers platform for citizen reporting of flytipping incidents should support more effective management of flytipped material, although the level of significance for biodiversity is uncertain. Due to uncertainty regarding the complexity of reporting ‘live’ data it is considered that this would have little to offer in terms of effects on the biodiversity criteria.

4.4 Mitigation and Enhancement

The following measures are suggested to enhance the proposals in the new National Litter and Flytipping strategy, with respect to biodiversity:

  • Carry out research to clarify the link between litter and flytipping and adverse effects on land-based biodiversity and ecosystems, using case studies to promote issues and support behavioural change.
  • The size and nature of designated sites may limit the ability to maintain a presence of litter wardens, so other forms of surveillance (e.g. drones) or the availability of recycling facilities for visitors may help to improve the management of litter and flytipping.
  • Ensure that services and infrastructure are optimised for particularly sensitive habitats, e.g. through the provision and design of recycling facilities or enabling a rapid response to clear-up of flytipping incidents.

The following potential mitigation measures are also recommended, although it is acknowledged these suggestions support the wider aims to prevent or improve management of litter and flytipped materials, so are considered to be common to each of the environmental topics:

  • Improved consistency in data collection between duty bodies should be encouraged and informed through guidance. Data reporting should be made clear and simple to users to maximise reporting rates.
  • Improving shared access to information on enforcement and prosecutions for littering and flytipping may assist in deterring repeat offenders who might cross local boundaries. Enforcement levels could also be analysed against flytipping levels per local authorities/relevant organisations to find gaps or shortcomings.
  • Whilst incorporating information on flytipping into a national database would be beneficial, efforts must be made to ensure that reporting is consistent and comprehensive. This has not been the case for Waste Data Flow where mandatory data reporting has been inconsistent and incomplete.
  • Consider the use of technology to streamline and facilitate the reporting of data on litter and flytipping to determine how it can improve reporting by local authorities and landowners.
  • Consider increasing the prominence of enforcement in nudging behavioural change, such as emphasising the consequences of failing to pay a fixed penalty notice and the level of potential fines associated with prosecution (i.e. up to £2,500 for littering and up to £40,000 for flytipping).
  • Provide reminders on the availability of waste recycling facilities, including the option that using recycling facilities at home may provide better outcomes for waste material rather than littering.



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