Derek Robertson: Our beautiful countryside is blighted by litter thrown from vehicles

It's that time of year when everyone is thinking ahead to long planned journeys to meet up with family and friends over the festive period, and looking towards the new start promised by the commencement of a new year. A welcome combination of renewing friendships with rest and reflection. Maybe that journey would be a good one to look around at the countryside and roadsides as we drive through, and consider the degree to which it exemplifies our pride in our surroundings.

Derek Robertson is Chief Executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful

All too often we’ll be disappointed by what we see. We’ll be driving through great scenery and thriving communities, but both will be blighted by the scourge of our national shame – litter. Whilst poor local environmental quality can manifest itself in a range of ways, through graffiti, dog fouling, flytipping and general disrespect for our surroundings, I guarantee you that it will be our continuing blight of roadside litter that will most obviously shame us all.

It does so because there is something especially clinical and disrespectful about choosing roll down the window and throw litter out. It seems so easy – one act that both cleans our car and trashes the environment for those in a place we have already left behind. It’s a national embarrassment that Keep Scotland Beautiful is committed to fixing, but it needs action from us all.

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First, we need to recognise the sheer scale of the problem. With almost 83 per cent of roadsides blighted by litter, it is no surprise that over 50 tonnes of litter are collected every month from motorways alone. A shocking 112 bottles and cans are to be found on the average mile of Scottish road network, and half of all roadsides are littered by disposable cups and cigarette butts.

Take your litter home - it's blighting the countryside

Those statistics make for sobering reading, and they demonstrate that this blight is caused by consumption on the move – and a disgusting disrespect for our country.

Given that problem, it is also no surprise that so many of those with a direct interest stand shoulder to shoulder with us in determined effort to fix the problem. Household names like AG Barr, Coca-Cola, Red Bull, Lucozade Ribena Suntory, Britvic and McDonald’s recognise the crucial part that manufacturers and retailers have to play, and we’re proud to have them join us in our campaign to end roadside litter. They recognise their corporate obligation, but join us in highlighting the steps that we can all take to eliminate the problem.

It’s a simple message – give your litter a lift. Take it home.

Recognise the impact that carelessly discarding litter has on the environment for everyone. The impact takes many forms – it costs us all a fortune to clear up, and is acknowledged as having a tangible, and negative impact on our health and wellbeing. It costs our economy dear as visitor numbers are constrained by our continuing disrespect, and the environmental impact is real and ongoing. Given all that negative impact, it is only right that our roadside campaign has developed so many varied initiatives to encourage us all to do the right thing.

Take your litter home - it's blighting the countryside

We’ve worked with the National Trust for Scotland to provide portable ashtrays and materials at visitor centres; with our partners at the Forge and Gretna Gateway shopping centres and also McDonald’s to raise awareness and assess the impact of roadside litter on public perception. Also, because our carelessness on land inevitably impacts negatively on our seas, waterways and oceans, we’ve welcomed the support of Caledonian MacBrayne and Scottish Canals to continue our fight and at the coast.

When it comes to considering the journey into the new year ahead, let’s all think carefully about what part we can play in finding a solution. When over 80 per cent of us have seen someone discarding litter from their car in the last three months, we can all be part of the solution. We need to create the same culture of complete revulsion that is being applied to dog fouling which is starting to gradually reduce the scale of that problem.

Imagine the difference that can be made by reducing our consumption of that which is too often thrown away. A reusable cup in every car would cut significantly the resources used in that mid-journey tea and coffee. Let’s all look for ways that we can responsibly recycle our waste, but most of all – at Christmas time and all year round – let’s end the shameful abuse of our countryside and streetscapes and take our journey’s rubbish home.

This holiday season, let’s make throwing litter from your car as unacceptable as drink driving, and we’ll reap the benefits all year round.

Derek Robertson is chief executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful