Scotland’s previous five-year national litter strategy Towards a Litter-Free Scotland was adopted in 2014. This strategy reflected broader work undertaken to support the circular economy set out in the Zero Waste Plan (2010), Safeguarding Scotland's Resources (2013) and Low Carbon Scotland: behaviours framework.
A key focus of the national strategy at that time was to prevent littering and flytipping through a change in public behaviour via increased awareness and individual accountability as well as aiming to increase recyclability of products.
A review of the 2014 strategy and the activity that took place as a result was completed in 2019. This review found that, whilst significant progress had been made, addressing litter and flytipping still posed significant challenges. The 2019 review pointed to a need for any future National Litter and Flytipping Strategy to acknowledge the wider context of the circular economy and Scotland’s net zero aims.
In early 2021, the Scottish Government engaged with key stakeholders through a summit and roundtable to understand how priorities have shifted since the 2014 strategy, particularly in the context of Covid-19. At that point, the Scottish Government confirmed its commitment to developing a new strategy to tackle litter and flytipping.
The final strategy, which will have a six-year lifespan, will be delivered later in 2022 and will outline ownership and deliverables for each action.
These actions sit under three strategic themes agreed by stakeholders in their review.
- Behaviour change
- Services & infrastructure
Data and research are seen as cross-cutting elements of this strategy, underpinning these three themes, to be able to evaluate the progress and effectiveness of the strategy.
A public consultation on the aims, objectives, and potential actions for this new strategy was published in December 2021, with questions aligned to the three strategic themes.
Consultation questions were drafted by the Scottish Government in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland, Keep Scotland Beautiful and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). The consultation was open for 15 weeks from 13 December 2021 to 31 March 2022.
A total of 978 people responded to the consultation. The consultation findings were analysed by Pye Tait Consulting and are presented in this report.
The key findings are summarised below, split into the three strategic themes for littering and for flytipping. Broadly, there are high levels of support for almost all proposed Actions within the consultation documents.
Littering – behaviour change
Almost four in five (78%) support conducting research to understand the full range of influences on littering behaviour. It is believed such research will help to assess existing impact and management plans, and to inform future action and preventative measures.
There is a high level of support (88%) to develop and adopt a national anti-litter campaign. Respondents suggest any campaign addresses the behaviours and attitudes of people who litter, to hold them accountable. It is suggested the campaign focuses on educating the public, especially young children, about the impacts, risks, and consequences of littering.
Priorities for behaviour change interventions are suggested. These typically focus on educating the public and particularly young people to influence behaviour from an early age, providing additional warnings at litter hotspots, and targeting interventions about the most common litter items.
Just under half (48%) support the development of a standard definition of litter, with many stating they are already aware of and understand this term. Support is higher among organisations (69%) than individuals (46%).
A minority of respondents – typically around 10 to 15% per consultation question – disagree with the proposed Actions. Typically, most favour taking direct action to clear up litter, and perceive some of the broader Actions suggested to be a poor use of resources in the quest to tackle littering.
Littering – services & infrastructure
Around three quarters (73%) believe that a common approach to data collection between stakeholders would help provide a collective understanding of actions needing to be taken. Such collaboration will, it is perceived, improve the ease and speed at which data are obtained and allow for a more effective, standardised and responsive enforcement of anti-littering laws. Communication and clarity of roles are highlighted as being critical to successful collaboration.
Most of those commenting believe that people would engage with citizen science data collection if an incentive was offered, or if community or youth groups were involved.
Good examples of interventions that respondents cite which have previously worked well include graphic advertisements (akin to anti-smoking campaigns) designed to stick with viewers, deterrent posters in hotspots for littering, and TV campaigns showing the environmental impact of littering. Some believe that CCTV and warning signs in littering hotspots are also effective as these act as deterrents. Community groups that are encouraged to volunteer and collect litter are also commonly mentioned.
Over two thirds (68%) support the creation of a national litter hub and over four in five (82%) support the development of a community focused litter education programme. Respondents believe it is vital to start education from a young age to ensure that children within the community respect and understand the repercussions of littering. Suggested information within a hub and programmes includes locations and opening times of waste disposal centres, details on littering sanctions and penalties, resources for community groups, and education resources.
Of the minority against such proposals (ranging between 5-15% of respondents), most typically believe that money and time could be better dedicated to funding projects which take direct action such as cleaning efforts, hiring public community officers, and developing stricter policies for prosecuting litterers.
Littering – enforcement
Most respondents (83%) agree with the idea of alternative penalties such as litter picks, claiming that they might be more effective and serve as a better deterrent than fines. Some respondents believe fixed penalties should be higher and that monetary fines prevent people from breaching the law repeatedly, with 79% supporting the exploration of raising current fixed penalties. However, a small minority (under 30 respondents, equivalent to under 10% of those commenting on this point) note that sanctions for littering are often not implemented, and that penalties need enforcing regularly to have an impact.
Of those who support reviewing and further developing guidance on enforcement best practices (77% of respondents), the majority believe that the current enforcement in place is insufficiently effective and that immediate action is required.
Some respondents (fewer than 10% of those commenting on this point) note the importance of education and suggest that Scotland could learn from and apply best practices in other areas and countries in this regard. Singapore is mentioned as having a rigorous but successful anti-littering policy, while the USA’s practice of prisoners collecting litter is also noted.
Flytipping – behaviour change
There is broad support (65% agree) for research to understand the behaviour that leads to flytipping. It is thought this will help inform appropriate actions and sanctions that can be implemented.
Meanwhile, around four in five support the creation of a national anti-flytipping campaign (78%), or of a single information point advising on the disposal of commonly flytipped materials (81%). The majority believe these actions would help educate the public, outlining how many do not know or understand how to properly dispose of waste, what materials can be disposed, where, and at what cost.
Many stress the importance of early years education, to target behaviour change from a young age. Suggested priority topics for behaviour change interventions include showing the damage that flytipping can cause to wildlife, providing details on the locations and opening times of waste disposal centres, outlining penalties and sanctions, and as well as guidance on how to report flytipping.
Just over half (54%) support the development of a standard definition of flytipping, with respondents stating this term is already well-understood. Support is higher among organisations (79%) than individuals (52%).
Flytipping – services & infrastructure
The majority (around two thirds of respondents) suggest that establishing a national, central database would be the best solution to support and encourage sharing of data and joining up of services between local authorities, the waste sector, SEPA and other organisations. Many believe that a national database is the only way to ensure dumpers who cross council boundaries can be dealt with. It is suggested this database has one, clear lead, and that roles and responsibilities of all involved parties are clearly defined from the outset.
Many respondents indicate they fully support the re-use, recycling, or upcycling of products, and some suggest retailers and manufacturers are encouraged to produce goods with longer lifespans that are easier to repair.
There is generally a low awareness of the Dumb Dumpers initiative, and several suggest changing its name, or promoting it more widely if a decision is made to retain the initiative. Some respondents are aware of other platforms and tools for reporting and believe that a unified platform would be most effective.
Past interventions that are noted to have worked well to reduce flytipping include community and voluntary efforts dedicated to clearing flytipped waste. There are mixed views on the success of amnesties.
Around four in five (79%) support the mandatory reporting of flytipping incidents for statutory bodies. Most believe that flytipping should be reported as it is a crime, and note that mandatory reporting will help to collate data and identify hotspots. Some respondents caution that additional funding may be needed by statutory bodies to enact this.
The main perceived barriers to reporting flytipping are that landowners have to pay to clear waste, and that councils are unwilling to act. The majority support the notion that landowners should not have to foot this bill or be responsible to clear flytipped waste and would welcome greater levels of practical and financial support to install CCTV at hotspots to act as a deterrent.
Flytipping – enforcement
Many (over 80%) perceive current sanctions/monetary fines to be too small, and that fines should larger, with some suggesting they are scalable to flytippers’ profile (e.g. business, homeowner, repeated flytipper etc.). Some respondents advocate for stricter sanctions, including adding points to a person’s driving record or removal of the vehicle used for flytipping.
From both those for and against stricter penalties, there is a call from many to reduce waste disposal fees at household waste and recycling centres, and to ideally make these free. There is also call for more household waste and recycling centres with longer opening hours to increase accessibility. Others suggest that better signposting of waste disposal or recycling centres is required.
Around 30 respondents (three quarters of which are organisations – most commonly stakeholders, local authorities, and statutory, public or government-funded bodies) would welcome further guidance on roles, responsibilities and best practices relating to enforcement. They argue that a national approach will help ensure consistency and a shared understanding.
Most (73%) are unable to comment whether the impact assessments which accompany the consultation are an accurate representation of the core issues and considerations, stating they lack sufficient time or knowledge to pass comment. Around one fifth (22%) agree with the impact assessments are an accurate representation.
For similar reasons, over half (55%) are unable to comment on the findings from the Strategic Environmental Assessment Report, while most others (39%) agree with the report’s recommendations. There is general feedback that the consultation was overly long and that it expected too much of respondents to read through lengthy supporting documentation.
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