Action on Littering and Packaging

Kenneth Gibson, Arran’s local MSP, discusses the problem of litter and sets out some of the actions being taken by the Scottish government under the National Litter Strategy. The recent announcement of the introduction of a deposit return scheme (see also the article in this issue ’20 p for a clean climate’), will also reduce litter and increase the rate of recycling across the country.

The SNP Government has announced that a future Circular Economy Bill will introduce tougher action on littering from vehicles.

Squads of volunteer litter pickers are on our roads and beaches each summer collecting litter and facing an uphill struggle against the mindless behaviour of those motorists and passengers who throw their litter out the window, rather than binning or recycling empty packaging at the end of their journey.

We all know stretches of road that are painful to look at because there is so much litter. Not only is littering from vehicles completely unnecessary, it is unsightly and presents a danger both to other motorists and to operatives and volunteers who clean-up. There is also a significant cost to taxpayers, taking valuable resources away from other public services.

Scotland’s beauty is often blighted by litter. Even Arran, much cleaner than most of the country, is not immune. If individual identification of those littering from a vehicle is not possible, the law change would move responsibility to the registered keeper of the vehicle.

The SNP Government is already taking important steps to incentivise recycling and increasing the value of some commonly littered items.

Scotland was the first part of the UK to announce a deposit return scheme for drinks packaging to encourage more people to recycle drinks containers. On 08 May, it was announced that the scheme will include aluminium and steel cans as well as glass and Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic. A 20p deposit is expected to reduce littering of these items by 85%.

The ambitious scheme is based on successful international equivalents and will be widely accessible, with all shops which sell drinks offering deposit refunds to customers. Not only will deposit return be an effective way of increasing recycling rates and reducing litter, it will also increase the quality of recycled materials collected in Scotland. Businesses want to increase the amount of recycled content in their packaging, leading to an increasing demand for recycled materials of high quality.

Currently 1,300 bags – nearly seven tonnes – of rubbish are gathered from the sides of the M8 and M9 alone each month. Action under the National Litter Strategy will make a vital difference.

Our country’s natural beauty is one of Scotland’s greatest assets, and it is the duty of every one of us to protect it.