Resource Use

Scotland to increase punitive fines for littering

Scottish Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead, yesterday (4 November) announced that punitive fines for public waste offences will increase in 2014, in an attempt to curb the amount of litter on the streets.

Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) for littering will rise from £50 to £80, while flytipping offences will quadruple to a minimum of £200 from 1 April next year, if backed by the Scottish Parliament. However, ‘more serious offences’ of flytipping would still be liable to higher sanctions, such as prosecution in court with the consequence of a fine (currently up to a limit of £40,000), and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months if convicted.

This announcement follows on from the Scottish Government’s National Litter Strategy Consultation – which will ‘help shapeScotland’s first national litter strategy since devolution’ – in which two thirds of respondents indicated they were in favour of increasing the penalties (however, a recent poll organised by Zero Waste Scotland found that the majority of people (44 per cent) thought ‘a major education and awareness drive’, rather than enforcement, was the best way to tackle litter).

Litter problem costs £78m a year

It is hoped that the increase in fines will help reduce the amount of money spent on cleaning up illegally-deposited waste; according to research undertaken by Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) the Scottish Government spends more than £78 million a year on tackling litter.

The ‘Scotland’s Litter Problem: the scale and cost of litter and flytipping’ report found that more than half the population admitted to dropping litter, costing the Scottish Government £53 million to clear up and a further £25 million through its effect on a range of related issues including crime, health and reduced property values.

Furthermore, it was also found that 250 million individual items of litter are cleared up each year, of which 125 million could have been recycled, to a value of £1.2 million.

Lochhead said that the FPNs, combined with the ‘significant new financial penalties proposed in the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Bill and the Landfill Tax (Scotland) Bill’ (both currently before Parliament), means that there will be a variety of penalties available to tackle ‘litter louts’.

”Risk of a financial penalty a significant motivator”

Speaking of the proposal to increase FPNs, Lochhead said: “It is imperative that we deal with this problem. We should not let the irresponsibility of some spoil our beautiful country.

“We want people to see the benefits of stopping littering and to take responsibility for their own actions for the right reasons. However, we know that the risk of a financial penalty is going to be a significant motivator for some.

“By strengthening the enforcement system, we will begin to deter future offending as we move towards the first ever National Litter Strategy for Scotland, which we will publish next year.”

The announcement has been welcomed by Scotland’s local authorities, with Councillor Stephen Hagan, Spokesperson for Development, Economy and Sustainability at the Convention of Local Scottish Authorities (COSLA), saying: “Scottish local authorities want to see as much litter as possible being prevented. A significant amount of local authority resources are spent tackling litter issues.

“We welcome this early action by the Scottish Government in response to the recently published consultation on a National Litter Strategy for Scotland.

“Local authorities are committed to working with their communities and partners to reduce the negative impacts of litter and fly tipping through a variety of means of which fixed penalty notices are one.”

Zero Waste Scotland

The moves on tackling litter in Scotland correspond with the Scottish Government's plan to create a ‘zero waste to landfill society’ and see 70 per cent of waste recycled (and maximum of five per cent of waste sent to landfill) by 2025.

To achieve this vision, Scotland has

  • published a Waste Prevention Programme for all wastes, ‘ensuring the prevention and reuse of waste is central to all our actions and policies’;
  • proposed a Scottish landfill tax, and landfill bans for specific waste types to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and boost recyclate capture; and
  • introduced new waste regulations which require separate collections of specific waste types, including food, to ‘avoid contaminating other materials, increase reuse and recycling opportunities and contribute to renewable energy targets’.

Read more about Zero Waste Scotlandand Scotland’s National Litter Consultation.