Rapid evidence review of littering behaviour and anti-litter policies

As part of a wider research programme into the issue of littering in Scotland, Zero Waste Scotland commissioned a Rapid Evidence Review of Littering Behaviours and Policy Interventions.

The aims of the study, which informed our overarching ‘Scotland’s Litter Problem’ report, were:

  • To identify, summarise and map existing evidence on littering behaviours, motivations and barriers, and possible opportunities for changing behaviour; and
  • To review evidence to identify existing anti-litter policy interventions and, where, possible, review evidence on the impacts of those measures.

Analysis of the evidence uncovered in the research indicates that littering behaviour is influenced by a number of factors which act in conjunction. The concept of ‘litterers’ may be a misleading one: instead it may be more constructive to think in terms of ‘littering incidents’ which are triggered by behavioural cues.

Drawing on this conceptualisation of littering, the research suggests that the most effective way to tackle litter may be a two-strand approach:

  • Raising awareness of what ‘counts’ as litter, and the impacts of littering; and
  • Targeting specific “occasions” (which can be defined as ‘bundles’ of activities, people, locations and potential litter items) which generate litter.

Practical applications

The Rapid Evidence Review findings, along with other Zero Waste Scotland research, have been used in the development and production of a toolkit of context-specific communications materials which you can access free of charge.

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