Scottish farms and beauty spots have seen a sharp rise in flytipping crimes during the coronavirus lockdown.
Leading rural and environmental organisations have said it is “heart-breaking” to see the increased amount of rubbish dumped in the countryside since the pandemic began.
Residents in Scotland have been asked “not to be selfish” in an urgent plea released by NFU Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates, the Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, Keep Scotland Beautiful and Zero Waste Scotland.
In a joint statement leading members of the organisations said Scotland’s countryside was being “blighted” by the public’s “junk” and putting farm animals at risk.
It read: “Over the past few weeks, we have seen Scotland’s beautiful countryside being blighted even more with people’s junk.
“Farmers’ fields, laybys and lanes have become hot spots for DIY remnants, unwanted furniture and garden waste.
“At a time when farmers are working around the clock to provide food for the nation and trying to keep their businesses running despite being short staffed, it is heart-breaking to see their land being used as a giant tip.
“Additionally, local authorities have been forced to temporarily reduce or suspend some services due to the crisis, they are prioritising essential services to protect public health, therefore dealing with flytipping at this time puts added pressure on this limited resource.”
The organisations pleaded the public “not to be selfish” by dumping unwanted goods while they are taking the time during lockdown to clear out their homes.
In a joint request they urged residents to keep their items stored at home until recycling centres re-open and charities begin to collect furniture and clothing again.
The statement added: “Flytipping is illegal, ugly and dangerous.
“It can be harmful to lambs, calves and other animals and wildlife too.
“But for farmers and other landowners, it is also costly to clean up.
“Dealing with litter and flytipping costs an eye watering £53 million of public money in Scotland every year, and that’s only in relation to public land.
“This money could be better spent elsewhere, particularly at this time.”
It went on to explain how keeping items stored until the lockdown measures ease are safer and more responsible than taking part in a criminal act that could lead to a fine of up to £40,000.
The public can also help by acting as the eyes and ears of their community, according to the groups.
The statement said: “We urge anyone who notices flytipping to report it, so it can be dealt with by the appropriate authority.
“This can be done in a number of ways, including through the online Dumb Dumpers website or reporting directly to the relevant local authority.
“As rural and environmental organisations, we are working together to stop flytipping – but we can only do it with the public’s support.”