Community action can keep litter out of Scotland’s communities, new report reveals

Community action can prevent local litter problems building up and reduce our reliance on constant clean-ups in Scotland, a new report from Zero Waste Scotland, published today (Thursday 30th April) has revealed.

30 Apr 15

The cost of cleaning up litter and flytipping in Scotland is £45 million each year.

Clean-ups are the most widespread of community efforts to tackle litter, and while they have many positive outcomes, the research considers how a range of community interventions can help to prevent litter. The report also outlines which community activities can best be developed and supported for maximum impact.

This includes:

  • Community campaigns to raise awareness of local litter and encourage behaviour change.
  • ‘Citizen science’, which involves volunteers carrying out data collection and a range of monitoring techniques to inform interventions.
  • Incentives to motivate local communities, such as access to social activities or opportunities to learn new skills.
  • Litter pick ‘plus’ – clean-ups which are designed to maximise litter prevention impacts through broad engagement with the local community.
  • Community improvement projects like community gardening or intensive street redesign; or community building, for example organising a street party or event.

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland said:

“Scotland’s national litter strategy, Towards a Litter-free Scotland, focuses on preventing litter being dropped in the first place,  to reduce the need for clean up or enforcement. This new report will help us to best support communities to deliver real impact in their areas, and builds on our recent litter insights work, which revealed that people are most upset by litter left on their doorstep.”

“Litter is an eyesore and spoils Scotland’s natural beauty.  As well as the obvious costs of cleaning, education and enforcement, our research shows that litter and flytipping has indirect costs of over £25 million a year, for example impacts on mental health and neighbourhood safety.  By tackling the problem at its origin, we can help to make Scotland’s communities safer and more pleasant places to live.”

Community Action in Pumpherston – a Case Study

Pumpherston Community Council recently received funding from Zero Waste Scotland to help reclaim their local pond in the West Lothian village, which had seen a decline in recent years due to littering.  With the help of residents, the community council removed at least 30 tonnes of rubbish from the pond, with around a third of this being recycled. 

Viewing platforms and fishing piers have helped to transform the pond into an area for locals to enjoy, and the council is working with local organisations and groups, including the local school and golf club, to ensure that it continues to take pride of place in the community.   

The council is now planning to work with local taxi drivers to discourage litter and flytipping at a nearby taxi rank.

Community Council leader Karen Rogers explained:

“Our aim was to clean up a local landmark and provide a safe haven for wildlife, but we also wanted to educate and encourage people to take ownership and help avoid an endless stream of litter picks.  It was heartening to find that so many residents shared and embraced our vision for the area, and were prepared to assist with their time and effort.

“The Golf Club management and maintenance team have been tremendous in helping to maintain the area; and local primary school children helped by designing and building a bug hotel and various wildlife homes – teaching them valuable lessons about the environment and the impact litter has on wildlife.  Volunteers from the community have also helped by cleaning the area and picking up and recycling litter.

“Locals can now rightly feel a huge sense of pride for their hard work and efforts as the area is a beautiful place to walk, observe and feed the swans and ducks.”

Iain Gulland commented:

“Pumpherston Community Council’s efforts to tackle littering at the local pond area is a great example of what can be achieved when we look beyond clean up and work to prevent the problem occurring in the first place.

“We’re hoping to work with other communities going forward to carry out the recommendations from the report, and I look forward to seeing the outcomes of this work.”


Notes For Editors

Pictures show:

  • Karen Rogers, Pumpherston Community Council; and Emma Leel, Zero Waste Scotland
  • [l-r] Hannah Bogle, Vivian Bogle, Heather Burnside, Karen Rogers, Gillian McIlwraith, Sharon Gibson – all Pumpherston Community Council


  • Zero Waste Scotland is funded by the Scottish Government to support the delivery of its Zero Waste Plan and other low carbon and resource efficiency policy priorities.
  • Zero Waste Scotland is helping Scotland to become more efficient in its use of resources. As a facilitator and enabler of change, we help to reduce waste, increase energy efficiency and promote responsible water use – all as part of a journey towards a low-carbon, sustainable economy.
  • Zero Waste Scotland has six key delivery priorities for 2014-15. These are: Supporting a circular economy; Harnessing the value of recycling; Transforming attitudes to food waste; Reducing the impacts of litter; Implementing resource efficiency savings; Accelerating the development of low carbon heat.
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