Talking rubbish: Could shouting 'trash cams' cut Scotland's waste blight?

Talking ‘trash cams’ should be installed across Scotland to clamp down on illegal dumping of waste and punish fly-tippers, the boss of a security firm has said.

The call comes after horrifying footage emerged showing massive piles of festering waste at an illegal dump site beneath a motorway flyover in Glasgow.

It also follows a major spike in littering across the country during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Ryan Clark, chief executive of Safer Scotland, said he believed setting up a network of cameras that shout warnings and record acts of littering could help protect scenic places and cut down on dumping hot-spots.

Littering and fly-tipping cost Scots in excess of £53 million each year
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“Scotland is floundering in a sea of thoughtlessly discarded rubbish,” he said.

“Gratuitous disfiguration takes place in some of the most beautiful and often fragile locations – places which should be respected and enjoyed rather than despoiled.

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“And it is not just beauty spots. Our city centres, public spaces, parks and highways are all blighted.

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Shocking footage of rotting waste at illegal Glasgow dump site as fly-tipping br...
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Security firm boss Ryan Clark, of Safer Scotland, believes hi-tech cameras that shout warnings and capture litterers in action would help punish offenders and clean up the country

“It is a dispiriting experience to see the piles of discarded cans, bottles, cigarette packets and fast-food packaging.

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“A lot of focus this year has been on the countryside, as people who have been locked down for a year sally out to enjoy some fresh air and exercise.

“Unfortunately, many of these people may not be familiar with the tenets of the countryside code or even with the concepts of respect and consideration for others.

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“As a result, there has been an explosion in careless dumping of disposable barbecues, beer cans, face masks and even distasteful things like used toilet paper.

“The scale of the problem is staggering and should be an affront to any self-respecting country.”

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Scots spend more than £53 million each year dealing with irresponsible and illegal rubbish disposal, with figures showing at least 15,000 tonnes of litter and a further 26,000 tonnes of fly-tipped waste being chucked into the environment across the country each year.

Some councils in England have already installed littering cameras, where software matches footage of litter being thrown out of a car with the vehicle’s licence plate, and thus identifies its owner. Culprits can be fined up to £120.

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In Scotland, fines currently range from £80 to £2,500 for littering and from £200 to £40,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months for fly-tipping.

Mr Clark said he thought setting up a network of CCTV cameras covering some of the worst-hit areas could help reduce Scotland’s litter “epidemic” and would pay for itself through fines raised.

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Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Murdo Fraser, who is working on a private members’ bill to tackle illegal waste, believes fines should be upped but worries that cameras may push fly-tippers to find more hidden dump sites.

“We definitely need to increase fines in order to strengthen the deterrent,” he said.

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“I don’t believe, however, that covering every fly-tipping incident with CCTV is practical.

“It might work in some locations, but I feel it is likely just to displace the problem elsewhere.”

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Kim Young, litter and fly-tipping manager for Zero Waste Scotland, added: “We know that littering is incredibly damaging to our environment, day-to-day life and well-being in Scotland.

“We all have a responsibility to bin or recycle the items we no longer need, protecting our communities and outdoor spaces.”

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