An updated marine litter strategy for Scotland

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Closes 22 Mar 2022

Strategic Direction 1

Improve public and business attitudes and behaviours around marine and coastal litter, in co-ordination with the national litter and flytipping strategy

Research suggests that the majority of marine litter originates from terrestrial sources. Meeting the challenge of addressing marine litter levels will depend on businesses and individuals, whether at sea or ashore, playing their part by recognising and taking responsibility for their own actions.

There are currently a range of initiatives aimed at: reducing marine litter, raising awareness of the problem, or changing behaviour. The planned new actions will add to the work that is already ongoing.

Planned new actions up to 2027:

Action (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely)   
Responsible lead   
Encourage positive behaviour and deter littering and flytipping.   
In co-ordination with the National Litter and Flytipping Strategy delivery team, strengthen the enforcement of litter and flytipping regulations.   
1) Conduct an evidence review of the barriers to enforcement; and
2) Make necessary changes subject to the outcome of the evidence review.   
1) Short term; 2) Medium to long term   
Scottish Government - Zero Waste Policy Team   
Improve waste management in the fishing and aquaculture sector, by establishing systems to support the collection and recycling of gear.   
Develop a waste management scheme that assures improved management of end of life fishing gear. Work will include evidence gathering, industry engagement, policy and legislative development, and consultation.   
A waste management scheme for fishing gear (including aquaculture). To align with the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive.   
Medium term  (delivery end of   2024)   
Scottish Government - Marine Scotland   
Work with the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) to develop a standard for the circular design of fishing gear to facilitate better waste management and reduce environmental impact.   
A CEN standard for the circular design of fishing gear (including aquaculture).   
Medium term  (delivery end of   2024)   
Marine Scotland   
Extend access to Port Waste Reception Facilities to fishing vessels.   
All main fishing ports to facilitate responsible end of life gear disposal without additional charges.   
Long term   
Scottish Government to continue to work with Defra, MCA and other relevant partners on the implementation of this reserved matter   
Improve waste management for collected marine litter.   
Explore the potential to support the waste sector to consider recycling opportunities for degraded and contaminated marine plastics, including fishing gear.   
Capability for processing of marine litter in Scotland.   
Long term   
Scottish Government   
Reduce sewage related debris through a behavioural change campaign.   
Develop, launch and run an awareness raising campaign to promote behaviour change and highlight inappropriate flushing of wet wipes and sanitary items containing plastics down the toilet. The campaign will aim to significantly reduce the 36,000 sewer blockages that Scottish Water resolves per annum.   
Launch and run a new customer awareness campaign.   
Short to medium term (2022-2025)   
Scottish Water   

Action to date

The Scottish Government, with Zero Waste Scotland, has: 

  • Developed a communications toolkit for delivery partners and a behaviour change marketing campaign to discourage littering.
  • Started work to better understand links between enforcement delivery and the legal system, in regard to littering and flytipping.
  • Supported the Transport Litter Group’s Litter Week of Action to cut litter on the transport network.
  • Committed to working with the fishing sector and coastal communities to develop proposals to tackle the issue of fishing litter and lost gear.
  • Hosted the British-Irish Council Marine Litter Symposium in 2019, where a joint commitment was made to improve collection and recycling of end of life fishing gear.
  • Hosted an international marine conference in 2019, where the Trial Period campaign was launched to encourage the use of reusable sanitary products.
  • Committed to introducing a deposit-return scheme for glass, metal, and plastic drinks containers.
  • Taken forward legislation to: 

- Increase the fixed penalties for litter and flytipping, from £50 each, to £80 and £200 respectively. 

- Create powers for Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park to issue fixed penalties for littering and flytipping. 

- Create a requirement for alleged littering offenders to provide their name and address to enforcement officers.

- Update the Code of Practice for Litter and Refuse, which improved clarity around duties to prevent and clean up litter stated in section 89 of the Environmental Protection Act (1990).

- Discourage large-scale flytipping, with new powers for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and action by Revenue Scotland and SEPA to recover landfill tax from illegally deposited wastes.

- Introduce a charging scheme for single-use carrier bags, a highly visible form of litter, from October 2014. 

- Implement a ban on the manufacture and sale of rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads, such as shower gels and toothpastes, from June 2018. Microbeads are a persistent and harmful form of marine litter.

- Implement a ban on the sale of plastic-stemmed cotton bud sticks, a highly prevalent form of marine litter, from October 2019.


Actions from other organisations include:

  • Keep Scotland Beautiful initiated its Upstream Battle project in 2018. The project works with local communities to inform and educate, in order to change littering behaviours. A network of volunteers have adopted sections of rivers and waterways, and collect and record litter to prevent it reaching the sea.
  • The KIMO Fishing For Litter project has been running in Scotland since 2005. The project involves fishing boats returning marine litter hauled up in their nets to port for safe disposal. The long-term objective of the project is to influence the attitudes and behaviours of fishers, and to increase awareness amongst the fishing industry of the negative impact of marine litter. 
  • KIMO and Fidra have produced a community toolkit and best practice guidance for owners, maintenance organisations and users of artificial sports pitches, to reduce this source of microplastic pollution. Scottish Government is working with stakeholders to support the implementation of this Pitch In guidance in Scotland.
  • Scottish Water introduced the Keep the Cycle Running public information campaign, to provide advice on the correct disposal of sanitary items, oils, and fats, in order to prevent sewer blockages.
1. To what extent do you agree or disagree that the planned actions under each of the following objectives will contribute to the achievement of Strategic Direction 1?
2. Do you consider there to be any omissions or gaps in the planned actions identified under Strategic Direction 1 in the consultation document that could help to contribute towards its achievement?