By Iain Gulland

SCOTLAND’S beautiful green spaces and countryside, from lochs and mountains to city parks and country woodlands, are the envy of the world. In recent weeks we have reopened our doors to visitors following months of closure.

As coronavirus largely puts paid to holidaying abroad, and many indoor attractions remain closed, people are out and about enjoying Scotland’s outdoors this summer. Unfortunately, this increases a risk to Scotland’s natural environment – and that risk is litter.

Littering has an enormous impact on our country and damages the ecosystems that humans rely on to survive. Throughout lockdown we saw a rise in flytipping, coinciding with reduced waste collection services and the closure of recycling centres. Now there are signs that littering is on the rise as people spend more time outside.

Research illustrates an uncomfortable truth, over half the population of Scotland has littered, and it’s a behaviour that isn’t isolated to just one demographic. Many don’t realise how damaging littering can be and that it’s a crime. Not only can offenders be prosecuted, litter is incredibly unsightly, discouraging visitors, damaging communities and harming wildlife.

An estimated £53 million of public money is spent on tackling litter and flytipping each year. That doesn’t include the indirect cost – negative impacts such as lower house prices and higher crime levels – estimated to exceed £25m a year.

An astonishing 250m items of litter are cleared up every year in Scotland, and at least 50% of this could be recycled. It is waste in the wrong place. Litter also affects mental health and wellbeing, disrupting the beautiful environment visitors are used to enjoying, and impacting health and safety.

Zero Waste Scotland has launched the Scotland is Stunning campaign to urge those enjoying our green spaces to take ownership and pride in keeping them clean and beautiful. The message is simple: bin your litter or take it home.

We have partnered with the Scottish Government and Keep Scotland Beautiful to raise awareness of the problems litter creates. The campaign aims to inspire Scots to deal with their litter responsibly, condemning scenes of abandoned campsites, food packaging or any other litter damaging beauty spots and public parks in cities and rural areas. That is not our Scotland, our Scotland is stunning.

The tourism sector is vital for Scotland’s economy and, if we are to ensure it continues to thrive, we must keep our country looking its very best. No one wants to spend their long-awaited day out surrounded by mess. Each of us has a responsibility to look after Scotland, leaving it pristine for others to enjoy.

While we absolutely encourage everyone to get out and support tourism and local businesses, with many cafes and restaurants increasing their takeaway offering, there is even more of a risk that packaging can be dumped rather than thrown away or recycled properly. It’s more important than ever to plan ahead before spending time outside. Can you bring reusable containers and cutlery for food? Have you got a bag for your litter? Can it be recycled?

It’s no one’s job to clean up after you. Everyone needs to play their part in keeping our parks and beauty spots looking great for the next visit. Scotland is stunning, let’s keep it that way.

To find out more about the campaign, visit and follow the campaign on social media using #BinYourLitter.

Iain Gulland is Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland