National litter and flytipping: consultation

This consultation proposes potential actions to tackle litter and flytipping in Scotland. Responses to this consultation will inform the development of the final National Litter and Flytipping Strategy which will be published in early 2022.

1. Introduction

This consultation, which was drafted in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, Keep Scotland Beautiful and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), is seeking views on the aims, objectives and actions that will sit under, the new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy for Scotland. The responses to this consultation will help shape and deliver the final strategy which will be published in 2022. The consultation will run until 31 March 2022.

The Scottish Government's overarching vision, which is shared by our partners, Zero Waste Scotland, Keep Scotland Beautiful and SEPA, is one where Scotland's environment is unblighted by litter and flytipping. It is also to encourage and support positive behaviours, enabling individuals and businesses to choose the correct route of waste disposal and therefore improve the quality of their local environment.

Achieving this will require cohesive, sustained efforts for all partners and affected parties, including local authorities, national parks, Police Scotland, SEPA, the third sector, businesses and the public. Engagement and consultation with a wide range of stakeholders is a crucial aspect of the new strategy development.

1.1 Background

Scotland's first National Litter Strategy "Towards a Litter-Free Scotland: A Strategic Approach to Higher Quality Local Environments[1]" was published in 2014. A review of this strategy (Litter Strategy- five years on: review[2]) and the activity that took place as a result, was completed in 2019.

The review of the 2014 strategy concluded that significant progress has been made in a number of areas, but acknowledged that litter and flytipping continue to pose a significant challenge. In particular, it noted that there is a need to treat litter and flytipping as two separate issues that require tailored strategic intervention. Therefore, this consultation and the draft strategy have separate and distinct sections, with equal weighting.

In early 2021, the Scottish Government engaged with stakeholders through a flytipping roundtable discussion and litter summit to better understand how priorities have shifted since the publication of the original strategy and in the context of COVID-19. In March 2021, the Scottish Government then committed to developing a new strategy for tackling litter and flytipping.

The review also noted the need for clearer strategy direction and ownership to help partners and stakeholders understand the implication for them. In developing the new strategy, the Scottish Government has worked closely with a range of organisations, including at two workshops held in summer 2021, to ensure a common understanding and has prepared a list of actions that will sit beneath the strategy to help deliver its vision. The final strategy, which will be delivered in 2022, will outline ownership and deliverables for each of the actions.

This strategy will have a six year life-span and actions will include short (2 years), medium (4 years) and long (6+ years) term timescales for completion.

1.2 Themes

The actions will sit within three strategic themes that were agreed by stakeholders through the review of the 2014 strategy and subsequent engagement:

  • Behaviour Change
  • Services & Infrastructure
  • Enforcement.

These themes, which will be discussed in more detail in the following sections, will help to ensure that individuals and organisations:

  • Understand the harm (environmental, social, economic, wellbeing) that litter and flytipping cause and their responsibilities for prevention;
  • Have the tools and incentives to effectively prevent litter and flytipping by making it easier for people to do the right thing at the right time
  • Are aware of the consequences of not taking responsibility for their waste.

Evaluating the progress and effectiveness of the strategy is also acknowledged to be of vital importance. Data and research was originally identified as a fourth strategic theme during the review of the 2014 strategy. Through engagement and development, it has been recognised that it is cross-cutting and comprises an integral and essential part of the other three themes. It is important to understand the behaviours and drivers behind littering and flytipping and to ensure that evidence gathering, monitoring and evaluation are used to continually inform action and understand its impact

It is also recognised that many of these actions overlap different themes, a summary of this can be found in Annexes B and C.

1.3 Monitoring and Evaluation

Improved data is crucial if we want to fully understand the root causes of litter and flytipping, evaluate the success of any interventions, collaborate successfully and monitor change and get insights into key audiences and how to influence their behaviour. This includes reporting of issues by the public and communities, national reporting and monitoring by bodies[3] with a statutory duty to clear litter and flytipping, citizen science and measuring outcomes.

Communities and regions in Scotland should not operate in silos, therefore having a common language to record and understand when, where, what and why littering and flytipping occur, will help us to build a local, regional and national picture to underpin and facilitate action.

This can be done by increasing the amount, consistency and quality of quantitative data collected continuing to develop the Litter Monitoring System (LMS), and utilising the public flytipping reporting system, Dumb Dumpers[4], and/or developing new tools and resources.

Further quantitative and additional qualitative data can be collected through citizen science. We can learn from the success of the Marine Conservation Society's Beach Watch[5] and Keep Scotland Beautiful's Upstream Battle.[6] Data has been collected for decades through Beach Watch and it has helped to influence policy such as the development of Scotland's Deposit Return Scheme (DRS)[7] and the Scottish Government's work on legislation to prohibit the supply and manufacture of certain single use plastics[8] items which was made in November 2021. This will essentially mean a ban from June 2022 on the sale of single use items such as straws, plastic cutlery, plates and expanded polystyrene cups and food containers which have all been identified as commonly littered items.

Ongoing data collection and monitoring will enable future evaluation of policy. It is intended that this strategy will be reviewed at the mid-point (3 years) and end of the strategy's life (6 years) to ensure progress is being made and continues to align with wider priorities and policy.

1.4 The bigger picture

The new strategy will take into account existing commitments and frame the pollution caused by litter and flytipping within the context of contributing to the climate and biodiversity crisis. Building a Circular Economy is a key mechanism for tackling this, and preventing litter and flytipping is essential in achieving this. The Scottish Government is committed to bringing forward a Circular Economy Bill this parliamentary session. With Scotland declaring a climate emergency in 2019 and hosting COP26 in November 2021, it should not be underestimated that preventing litter and flytipping can contribute to protecting our climate and biodiversity.

Feedback from the previous strategy review also sought to position the issue of litter and flytipping as a broader social concern. This includes its impact on health and wellbeing, and its contribution to local environmental quality, with particular relevance in deprived areas.

It is important to acknowledge the influence that robust litter and flytipping data can have on policy decisions (as mentioned above), as well as the effect (both positive and negative) that wider policy can have on the amount of litter and flytipping that occurs.

The Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 were laid before the Scottish Parliament on 11 November 2021. They come into force on 1 June 2022. The UK Internal Market Act 2020, however, means that the ban will not apply to any items which are produced in, or first imported into, another part of the UK, and which are not banned in that part of the UK. We are working with UK Government to consider ways to ensure the integrity of the ban.

The aim of the Regulations is to reduce the environmental impact of single-use plastic products and contribute towards the move to a more circular economy. The single-use plastic products banned are some of the most commonly littered items on European beaches. They constitute the majority of marine litter in the EU and these regulations will have a positive impact on terrestrial litter too, as well as tackling some of the items at the heart of our throwaway culture.

The proposed strategy should therefore also be viewed in the context of the work being carried out to examine how Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)[9] for a number of items- including packaging, mattresses, fishing gear and chewing gum- could potentially reduce their prevalence as both waste and littered and flytipped items. EPR is a ‘polluter pays' principle and places responsibility for covering the full net cost of waste on producers as it ensures that those responsible for creating waste are paying for it. It is a potent tool to change our habits of production and consumption and it incentivises further benefits, such as increased recyclability and design for reuse and long life, which will aid in the reduction of litter and flytipped materials.

In developing new EPR requirements, the Scottish Government will consider product impacts holistically in order to promote products that support a more circular economy. Again, data and research on littered and flytipped items can contribute to this by identifying those products and materials with the greatest impact and opportunity.

Scotland is set to be the first country in the UK to introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers. This means people will pay a 20p deposit when they purchase a drink in a can, glass or PET bottle, and they will get money back when they return the bottle to a local shop or collection point. The DRS for Scotland is also expected to have a significant impact on litter, with estimates that it could reduce litter by up to a third[10].

The wider impact of terrestrial litter and flytipping also needs to be taken into account. The majority of the unwanted material that ends up in the marine environment originated on land. This new strategy, focussing on land-based litter and flytipping, will align closely with Marine Scotland's updated Marine Litter Strategy.

The continuing challenges posed by COVID-19 must also be acknowledged, both in terms of stretching public sector resources and introduction of new items into the waste and litter streams (such as face coverings and other personal protective equipment). However, any actions taken with regard to personal protective items must be balanced with the importance of public safety.



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