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Tackle litter and fly-tipping: 11 things you can do right now

Scotland has a litter problem.

A big one that costs us at least £78 million every year. That’s what we spend cleaning up — and dealing with the indirect costs, such as the harm it does to our environment — the 15,000 tonnes of litter and 26,000 tonnes of flytipped waste dropped in Scotland every year.

With figures like that stacked against us, can we, as individuals really make a difference?

Yes - we can.

Remember it’s not just about litter – it’s about working towards a zero-waste society. Here are eleven things we can all do today to start moving things in the right direction.

Join or form a community group

If you’re not already part of a local litter prevention group, now’s the time to get involved. While you can take action against litter on your own, you’re much more likely to be effective as part of a team.

Not sure if there’s a group near you? Check online to see what’s out there - litteraction.org.uk is a good place to start.

If your search comes up short, consider setting up a group of your own. Chances are you’ll find lots of likeminded locals keen to help you reclaim your area’s streets and green spaces from the litterers.

Carry a reusable cup

Good news - you can do your bit for litter prevention and still enjoy your morning latte. Just get into the habit of taking a reusable cup when you head out. Then you can grab a guilt-free caffeine fix – avoiding those one-use paper cups that all-too-easily blow out of bins and make our streets look a mess.

Bringing your own cup will also earn you money-off at some of the big high street coffee shops.

Win-win.

Smokers – bin those butts

Lots of smokers don’t think twice about flicking cigarette stubs on the ground. Many wouldn’t class themselves as litterers, thinking that their impact on the environment is minimal.

But the problem is more than an odd butt here and there – Britain’s smokers throw away around 200 million each day. Even if a small percentage of these butts end up on the ground, that’s a lot of litter, and it costs us all a packet to clean it up every year.

Cigarette butt pouches or personal ashtrays are a clean and convenient way to deal with cigarette ends when there’s no bin nearby. These pouches are inexpensive to buy – some companies and councils give them away for free. Have a look online to see what’s available in your area.

Go paperless

Every year, British retailers give out 11.2 billion paper receipts – many end up as litter. Not to mention the lottery tickets, scratch cards and travel tickets that are increasingly seen messing up our streets.

But there’s another way.

If we create enough demand, we can become a paperless society - and reduce the amount of rubbish for litterers to leave across our landscapes.

Do your bit by asking for e-receipts whenever they’re available, buying tickets online and making contactless payments. You can also choose to go paperless with your bank and utility suppliers.

Using a contractor? Make sure they’re legit

A contractor willing to deal with your building or garden waste sounds like the ideal option. But do your detective work before you sign on the dotted line.

Anyone removing waste from a home improvement project or garden makeover needs to be registered as a waste carrier. Unlicensed contractors are more likely to dump your waste somewhere they shouldn’t.

If waste from your home is found in the wrong place, you may be held accountable – whether you knew that’s where it was destined for or not. Visit SEPA’s website to check if your carrier is licensed.

Drive your litter home

We all feel a bit more anonymous behind the wheel – and this can make some people more likely to litter. Not only does this make our roadsides look ugly, it can cause accidents and damage to vehicles.

Counter the problem by carrying a dedicated rubbish bag in your car and encouraging everyone you know to do the same. That way you can keep litter contained until you find a bin.

Report fly-tippers

To stop fly-tippers in their tracks, they need to know their actions have consequences. A potential £40,000 fine is a sure-fire way to get the message across.

Log local fly-tipping hotspots and keep a note of the number plates of vehicles seen dumping waste. You can report this information to your local authority or at dumbdumpers.org

When word gets around that your community reports anyone they see fly-tipping, it’s a safe bet that the number of incidents will start to fall.

Stay safe though: never approach or photograph fly-tippers, and don’t investigate the waste – it could be dangerous.

Donate to a litter charity or volunteer

Want to do your bit? Why not raise money for a charity that’s tackling Scotland’s litter problem?

Or, if fundraising isn’t your thing, donate your time. Look for charities in your local area to see what volunteering opportunities are currently available.

Pick up some litter

It sounds counter-intuitive, but picking up other people’s litter can actually help prevent them from dropping more. It tugs on the conscience when you’re the first to litter a tidy street – much more than dropping one more item in a road already strewn with rubbish.

Stay vigilant in your local area – and if you see litter appearing, pick it up and put it in the bin.

Start some rubbish chat

Our views affect the people close to us – but only if we speak our minds. Tell your friends and family why you care about making our country litter free - if it matters to you, they’ll probably start to take it seriously too.

Use a bin

This one’s so obvious, you’ll wonder why it’s included. But people don’t always realise what belongs in a bin, so it’s worth reinforcing the point.

Cigarette ends? Apple cores? Half-finished cups of coffee? All count as litter when dropped on the ground. What about rubbish left right next to a bin? Or a cup sneakily left under a seat? You guessed it – they’re litter too.

There are no excuses. Be clear on what counts as litter, and always, ALWAYS put your rubbish in a bin – and encourage others to do the same.

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