Litter – it matters to us all – the little actions you can take to make a big difference

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Logo: Keep Scotland Beautiful

By Heather McLaughlin, Campaigns Officer

And there are easy ways we can all take actions to improve the places we live, work and spend time.

Heather litter picking in Glasgow (Keep Scotland Beautiful)
Heather litter picking in Glasgow (Keep Scotland Beautiful)

Since lockdown, I have done a “morning commute” even whilst working from home. I go out for a walk locally to waken up. It feels like more and more often I’m having to pick up a couple of pieces of litter from just round about my garden perimeter. Has it got worse, or am I just more aware it’s a problem?

This is the sort of “Snowball Effect” many of us faced through lockdown: you see litter, you get angry, you see more of it, you get angrier. Something that you were once blind to you now see constantly. This isn’t a new phenomenon, and I know through lockdown many members of the public will have experienced this, but it’s worth knowing that it’s a problem that matters to more and more of us.

It matters to people in their communities, 88% of Scots agree that litter is a problem across Scotland; it matters particularly as we approach local elections as Councillors wade through complaints about dog fouling, flytipping and litter; it matters to the local authorities often struggling to keep up with the clean up operations needed to deal with the looming litter emergency; it matters to businesses, particularly those in the tourism industry or operating outdoors, like one of our Upstream Battle on the Tay Anchor Groups Beyond Adventure who have found dirty camping gear when out paddleboarding with customers; and finally, it matters to our wildlife – we’ve all seen the images of marine animals or otherwise getting stuck in litter or choking on plastic items.

And if that isn’t enough to make anyone think twice about dropping their waste, it matters to our pocket – more than £1million a week is spent each week on litter and flytipping.

While it is easy to feel powerless in the face of the tidal wave of litter there are many, easy things we can all do to play our part, on our own, with families and friends, and with our neighbours and community to keep Scotland beautiful...

Heather completing survey along the River Clyde for Upstream Battle (Keep Scotland Beautiful)
Heather completing survey along the River Clyde for Upstream Battle (Keep Scotland Beautiful)

There are so many inspiring individuals and groups out there taking action. Fitting in something that many people don’t think they can. Whether that’s picking up one or two pieces when out with your dog as a member of the Paws on Plastic movement or joining a litter pick with your local community group as part of our Spring Clean Scotland. In the last 18 months alone we have helped set up over 75 Community Clean Up Hubs across Scotland, all kitted out and ready for individuals to take action. Since lockdown, many communities have come together to amplify the impact of these small actions. In South Ayrshire over 1 million pieces of litter have been picked up by the local community during the last year. No action is too small, whether it’s one bottle, one bag or one Clean Up event. Anyone can join #TeamKSBScot to help us protect the places that matter to us most.

So, if you’re feeling inspired what can you do?

Now that lockdowns and restrictions might almost be in the past it’s the best time to help us galvanise action and spread messages to get as many people involved and outdoors to clean up our countryside, cities and coastline.

Join our Spring Clean. Organise a Clean Up, find a Clean Up near you and share our messages to encourage others to do the same.

Support or join a local group to support with their on-going activities. We have over 200 groups signed up through It’s Your Neighbourhood, Beautiful Scotland, Upstream Battle and Clean Up Hubs.

Help us gather data on the problem by completing one, or more, surveys in your community. We have a citizen science programme that helps you do this. - and combine with our unique national data set collected over two decades.

Have your say on litter. Until the end of March the Scottish Government has a consultation open to the public on their National Litter and Flytipping strategy.

First published in CJS Focus on Volunteering in affiliation with the Association of Volunteer Managers (AVM) on 28 February 2022. Read the full issue here


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Posted On: 08/02/2022

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