Chapter 9.2.1 Strategic approaches

Deliver a circular economy

Move to a Scotland which is litter free and has a circular economy.

UK Govt
Scottish Govt
Local Authorities
Emissions reduction
Behaviour change

Litter is a matter of significant public concern, with 87% of people believing it to be an issue across Scotland. In 2022, Keep Scotland Beautiful declared a litter emergency in Scotland following warnings that a failure to deal with the consequences of the most complained about environmental problem should not be underestimated. Datasets show that the number of sites with a significant presence of litter has continued to rise across our most deprived areas. The data shows that not only is the gap between most and least deprived areas widening, but that those communities within most deprived areas are experiencing a disproportionate increase in the number of sites recorded with a significant presence of litter.

Despite the many other pressing issues that we are currently facing, the environment – including the local environmental quality of our neighbourhoods – is something that matters to us all. Across Scotland people care about the places and spaces that we live in, work in and visit. Importantly, collective effort alongside meaningful resources is needed to tackle the litter emergency – creating a litter-free and circular economy for Scotland.

Working together, this is a problem that we can overcome and will also lead to important and positive impact on efforts to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss. The reality is that current behaviours and approaches are not enough to influence the trends of overconsumption and decline in local environmental quality that have now been reported for a number of years.

Measures such as the ‘plastic ban’, Extended Producer Responsibility schemes for packaging and other problem-items like mattresses, toys and textiles, a Deposit Return Scheme for Scotland, the forthcoming Circular Economy legislation in Scotland, campaigning for a ban on plastic-containing wet wipes and single-use vapes are all activities that will help to curb our litter problem and drive Scotland towards a Circular Economy.

A Circular Economy keeps valuable materials in use repeatedly and for as long as possible

All of these measures, including the new National Litter and Flytipping Strategy for Scotland, need investment in enforcement if they are to make a difference.

Climate education and climate action have many co-benefits which include: improved understanding of wider climate impact on issues such as justice; improvements to human health and wellbeing; increasing focus and action on nature and biodiversity restoration; and, sustainability and circular principles.

Just Transition principles of equity, participation and protection of security of employment must be applied in the move towards a more circular economy.

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Version 1.0: September 2023

The contents of this document will be updated on a regular basis.