18 March 2014

Cherry-picking litter won’t work: It has to be all or nothing

Research commissioned by INCPEN and conducted by Keep Scotland Beautiful shows that focusing just on particular items in litter will not solve the problem.

What is needed is a comprehensive approach that targets everything from cigarette ends and chewing gum (the two most frequently littered items making up 39.4% and 45.1% of litter respectively) to drinks containers (6.4%), food packaging (4.6%), lottery slips (0.1%)  and rubber bands (0.3%). 

Measures targeting single items - such as deposits on drinks containers - will not achieve the objective of eliminating litter from our streets and countryside.

Litter has to be measured by number of items and also, ideally, an assessment of its visual impact as well as how easy it is to clear up.

The weight of litter is usually irrelevant because, for example, 40 grams of plastic could be either 1 bottle or 12 yogurt pots. To effectively tackle litter it is essential to know the number of items that must be picked up, and how difficult that task is.

INCPEN commissioned the work as a contribution to the consultation in 2013 on the Scottish Government’s new national litter strategy, Towards a Litter-Free Scotland,  the final version of which is due to be published in summer 2014.

Jane Bickerstaffe, INCPEN Director says, "We’re very supportive of Scotland’s proposed comprehensive approach to tackling all types of litter.  We believe good data is vital to underpin that strategy, not only to provide a benchmark against which achievements can be measured but also so that targeted measures can be devised.  That’s why we commissioned this survey”.

Keep Scotland Beautiful surveyed 120 sites (30 each in Edinburgh, Falkirk, Renfrewshire, Inverness) between December 2013 and February 2014. 


Derek Robertson, Chief Executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful commented, "As the national charity dealing with litter in Scotland and with 10 years monitoring the cleanliness of our streets in partnership with all Scottish local authorities we are delighted to have been able to produce this data in support of the development of a national strategy for Scotland.”



INCPEN - The Industry Council for research on Packaging & the Environment – was established in 1974 to study the environmental and social impact of packaging. It draws together an influential group of companies that operate throughout the supply chain and share a common interest in packaging, the environment and sustainable development.

INCPEN has campaigned against littering for many years and has been a member and supporter of Keep Britain Tidy since the 1970s.  It has commissioned numerous pieces of research to better understand the issue.  It encourages its members and other companies to use the Tidyman logo or an adaptation of the Tidyman on products likely to be used outdoors.  Anti-littering messages are a key part of INCPEN’s highly respected materials for schools. 

INCPEN supports Keep Scotland Beautiful and Keep Britain Tidy’s view that preventing litter needs a comprehensive approach that includes educating people, provision of infrastructure, effective cleaning and law enforcement.

KEEP SCOTLAND BEAUTIFUL - Keep Scotland Beautiful is the independent charity which campaigns, acts and educates on a range of local, national and global environmental issues which affect people’s quality of life. It is committed to making Scotland clean and green, today and tomorrow. It is Scotland’s leading force acting, campaigning and training others to clean up local environments and to change the behaviour which blights our urban and rural landscape