Scottish Daily Mail

A load of rubbish? Litter levels worse despite SNP push

- By Graeme Murray

THE amount of rubbish on Scotland’s streets has increased since the Scottish Government introduced its litter-free strategy two years ago, according to an industry body.

Supermarke­t carrier bag litter is up 38 per cent since 2014 – despite the 5p charge being brought in that same year, a study reveals.

The analysis, commission­ed by the Industry Council for Packaging and the Environmen­t (Incpen), was conducted by Keep Scotland Beautiful at 120 sites in Edinburgh, Falkirk, Renfrewshi­re and Inverness in October of this year.

Smaller items such as cigarette butts and gum made up most of the total litter count, while larger pieces were paper (9 per cent), sweet wrappers (6 per cent), soft drink cans (6 per cent), plastic soft drink bottles (6 per cent) and cigarette packets (4 per cent).

The carrier bag charge was introduced in Scotland in October 2014, while the Government launched its Towards a Litter-Free Scotland campaign in June of that year.

The study found a 1 per cent increase in litter. Carriers represente­d less than 0.5 per cent of the total count but the number of discarded plastic bags has risen, while litter of other items with no charge has fallen – drinks containers decreased by 18 per cent and coffee cups by 36 per cent.

Jane Bickerstaf­fe, chief executive of Incpen, which was against the bag charge, said: ‘Two years on from the introducti­on of the carrier bag charge in Scotland and numerous campaigns to tackle litter, the problem is as bad as ever. This charge is not reducing the amount people litter. The study suggests that more charges and deposits on items such as disposable coffee cups and drinks bottles will not make a difference.

‘Unlike the bag charge, which is avoidable if you take your own bag, imposing new charges would simply place additional financial strain on hard-working families.’

The Government said its litter strategy was a five-year plan that sets out how Scotland can reduce litter and flytipping and support cleaner, safer communitie­s. A spokesman said: ‘We increased fixed penalties from £50 to £80 for litter and to £200 for flytipping.

‘In 2017 we will be updating the statutory code of practice on litter and refuse for public land, to increase the focus on prevention.

‘Zero Waste Scotland’s One Year On report [published October 2015] estimates a reduction of 80 per cent in the use of carrier bags in the first year of the charge, showing the benefit in attaching a value to items that can otherwise be viewed as waste.’

John Mayhew, from the Have You Got The Bottle? campaign, which is in favour of deposit-return schemes, said: ‘This is flawed research, conducted by an industry-funded organisati­on, designed to give results that deflect responsibi­lity on to the public and away from manufactur­ers.

‘We know 80 per cent fewer single-use carrier bags were given out by supermarke­ts in the year after the charge was brought in, and there’s been an almost 50 per cent reduction in the number of bags found on beaches.

‘That number will continue to fall given fewer bags are going into the environmen­t, and Scottish ministers should be very proud of having brought that system in.’

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