Cost of Scotland’s litter problem revealed as £53m

The cost of cleaning up Scotland's litter problem is �53m - pictured Prestwick beach. Picture: Getty
The cost of cleaning up Scotland's litter problem is �53m - pictured Prestwick beach. Picture: Getty
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RICHARD Lochhead, the Scottish Environment Minister, today announced plans for afresh offensive against the mountain of litter blighting Scotland’ communities and coastlines at clean up cost of almost £100 million a year.

He revealed that new research showed that more than half the population admit dropping litter which costs £53 million to tackle in direct clean up costs and a further £25 million through its effect on a range of related issues including crime, health and reduced property values.

The global issue of marine litter also threaten Scotland’s coastlines and wildlife and cost over £16 million a year to tackle.

Mr Lochhead said the Scottish Government planned to go out to consultation on a new action plan to tackle the problem of land and marine litter head on.

The new “Towards a Litter Free Scotland” draft strategy includes proposals to strengthen the effectiveness of the enforcement system, including increasing fixed penalty fines from £50 to £80 for litter, and £200 for fly tipping, and introducing prompt payment incentives.

The Government is also proposing improved education and communications to help prevent littering , and to increase recycling opportunities in public places

Mr Lochhead said: “Litter is a blight on Scotland’s communities and coastlines, tarnishing our beautiful landscapes and harming our wildlife and natural assets. For the first time we’re able to put a price on the real cost of littering and with more than 250 million items of litter and over 60,000 flytipping incidents a year, we must all do more to tackle this problem.

“Much of this litter ends up on Scotland’s coastline which is extremely damaging to our precious marine environment and harmful to our wildlife. It is also a major eyesore, with waste often visible on our beaches and in our waters.”

He continued: “Binning waste is very easy to do but still half the population admits to littering and that’s something we must tackle head on. We are making recycling easier and encouraging people and business to take more care and responsibility.

“In this Year of Natural Scotland and as we approach 2014 when we welcome the world to Scotland, it’s important that we show our country at its best. If everyone gets involved we can create a country where littering is no longer acceptable.”

Iain Gulland, director of Zero Waste Scotland, welcomed the proposed crackdown. He said: “We welcome this consultation bringing a renewed impetus to efforts to tackle litter and flytipping. We particularly welcome the focus on litter prevention given the cost of clean-up to the public purse.

“Littered materials could be worth more than £1 million to Scotland if they were recycled instead. We need to stop thinking of the things we discard as waste and instead treat them as resources which could benefit our economy and this can bring a new perspective to the litter debate.”

Anne Saunders, Scottish Projects Officer from the Marine Conservation Society also backed the initiative. She said: “A strategy is essential for the coordination of effort to tackle this ever-increasing problem of marine litter which affects the environment, wildlife, industry and tourism, and to meet international commitments. We are very pleased that the Scottish Government has taken this bold step toward litter-free seas, setting a good example to the rest of the UK. We want to see a robust strategy that results in the halving of litter on Scotland’s beaches by 2020.”

A Government spokesman explained: “Towards a Litter Free Scotland’ consultation runs until September 27, 2013 and the Scottish Government intends to bring forward a final National Litter Strategy – the first since devolution - early in 2014.”

Litter and fly tipping key facts:

• £53 million of public money is spent tackling litter and fly tipping each year

• Indirect costs, such as impacts on crime and house values are at least another £25 million

• Over half the population of Scotland admits to having dropped litter

• 250 million individual items of litter are cleared up each year

• Half of these items could have been recycled. They include valuable materials like plastic bottles and aluminium cans. Recycled, these would be worth £1.2 million through sales of materials.

• 26,000 tonnes of waste is also dumped illegally in fly tipping activity