National Litter and Flytipping strategy: island communities impact assessment

Summary of the island communities impact assessment (ICIA) undertaken for the National Litter and Flytipping strategy.

1. Background, policy objectives and intended outcomes

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. 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 is flytipped each year and dealt with by local authorities, with over 60,000 incidents occurring per year. This estimate excludes the vast majority of cases on private land.[4] 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 £60 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 encouraging other crimes, mental health and wellbeing. Further indirect costs due to environmental, economic and social impacts to the terrestrial and marine environments were estimated to exceed £196.7 million in 2019 according to recent research undertaken to update the figures referenced in the previous strategy on the cost and scale of litter and flytipping in Scotland.[5] The availability of data, which is often limited and inconsistently collected or reported, was a significant barrier to this research project and so these overall figures have to be treated with some caution. However, based on available evidence, these are the best estimate of the scale and cost of litter and flytipping in Scotland.

The new strategy builds upon the previous five-year strategy ‘Towards A Litter-Free Scotland: A Strategic Approach to Higher Quality Local Environments’.[6] A review of this National Litter Strategy was completed in 2019, summarising the activities that took place within the first five years of the strategy.[7] Whilst progress was has been made, litter and flytipping still pose significant challenges.

The National Litter and Flytipping Strategy is intended to present a new approach to litter and flytipping prevention – one which considers the whole life cycle of commonly littered and flytipped items in recognition of the loss of resources from the circular economy and the resulting contribution to the twin crises of climate and biodiversity loss.

The overarching ambition of the Strategy is to prevent littering and flytipping behaviour in Scotland. This will be achieved through the application of a systems approach, to identify where the necessary incentives are not in place to ensure a product is disposed of legally and in a way which maximises the value of that product or the materials within it. This involves looking at the entire lifecycle of products in question and those actors who are involved in influencing individuals at the point of disposal. Engagement and partnership working with key stakeholders has been central to the development of this Strategy and will be crucial for effective delivery of its outcomes and specific objectives going forward.

Actions are then based on the Individual, Social and Material (ISM) model, which identifies the need to address a broad range of influences on behaviour in order to achieve behaviour change. For the purposes of the strategy these are divided into the following themes:

  • 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 littering 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 need 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, identified from numerous stakeholder calls to review the enforcement process, 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.

Underpinning any next steps, improved data and evidence are 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 would include an improved understanding of the behaviours, attitudes and drivers behind both littering and flytipping behaviours and developing an evidence base that can facilitate the implementation and monitoring of effective interventions.

The Strategy has a lifespan of six years. It will be reviewed at its mid-point and at the end of its lifespan. It will be published with an associated Action Plan, which will be reviewed annually through a Governance and Delivery Framework which will comprise of a high-level strategy delivery group to drive implementation, agree priorities, review progress and adapt plans. This will be supported by topic-focused delivery working groups and other mechanisms for engaging key stakeholders and sectors to ensure a wide level of input into and scrutiny of future Action Plans.



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