The publication of a new strategy, Towards a Litter Free Scotland, has set Scotland on course for a renewed drive to tackle the nation's litter problem.
An awareness campaign is already underway to put the message out that littering is unacceptable. It describes littering as a "dirty little secret". It's a description that fits well, as one in five Scots admits to dropping litter. Of course, the litter itself is anything but secret.
More than 250 million items of visible litter are dropped in Scotland each year. This is an eyesore for all to see, whether they are residents of a local area or tourists.
So I'm delighted that Zero Waste Scotland is delivering a new litter strategy on behalf of the Scottish Government, alongside local authorities and key stakeholders, bringing innovation and new ideas to the problem. Litter is a problem that has refused to go away despite decades of campaigning and measures against it. Across the UK, while the population has risen by 21 per cent since 1960, the amount of litter we drop has increased by 500 per cent.
Litter is a people problem. Above all else, we need to try to motivate people to take greater personal responsibility for their local areas and stop dropping litter. There are ways to do this identified in the new strategy. Already this year fines for littering and fly-tipping have been substantially increased. Scotland has some of the toughest anti-littering penalties in Europe, with fines of £80 for littering and £200 for flytipping.
The "Dirty Little Secret" campaign is running to make as many people as possible aware of the fines and also to highlight the fact littering is socially unacceptable and something to be ashamed of. The campaign has been supported on TV, in cinema, online and social media and is is also accompanied by a roadshow of events aimed at engaging with communities across Scotland
The event includes a special interactive booth, where people can own up to their own "dirty little secret", from littering through to wearing the same socks for days on end or not doing the dishes, to build the stigma around littering and encourage people to think twice the next time they're tempted.
Zero Waste Scotland has also issued a call to companies, designers, land managers and community groups to come forward with innovative ideas to encourage creative solutions to tackle litter, with funding available to help the best ideas become a reality.
Ideas could include redesigning products and services to reduce some of Scotland's most commonly littered items such as increasing the use of electronic receipts or reusable coffee cups, or redesigning waste and recycling services to prevent accidental and wind-blown litter. The fund is open for applications until the end of this year.
The litter strategy has a strong focus on encouraging community clean ups and, at Zero Waste Scotland, we're also keen to harness the value of the waste that is collected. The recyclable materials dropped as litter each year in Scotland would be worth £1.2 million if recycled, so we are focusing on increasing the amount of recycling on-the-go facilities across Scotland. This ethos was in full force at the Commonwealth Games and Festival 2014, with separate recycling facilities for paper, plastic and card, general waste and food waste being provided for spectators so as much waste as possible could be recycled, supported by a huge team of recycling ambassadors helping to make sure the right items go in the right bins.
This renewed focus on litter is sorely needed and I hope as many organisations, communities and individuals as possible are able to support the current awareness campaign and the delivery of the strategy.
Litter is everyone's responsibility, and Zero Waste Scotland is keen to work with as many partners as we can to drive change in this key area. So if you want to see a litter-free Scotland, don't keep it a secret: get involved.