Derek Robertson: It’s time we took litter more seriously

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The next time you are out and about in Edinburgh have a look at the amount of litter that is lying around; plastic bottles, cans, cigarette ends, chewing gum, dog dirt. It’s everywhere. It’s a disgrace. And that is not a criticism of Edinburgh in isolation, because this is a nationwide problem.

However, in big cities, it’s a big problem. As a rough indication of the scale of the problem, consider some of these Scotland-wide statistics: 250 million easily visible pieces of litter are dropped every year; two million cigarettes are discarded daily; 170 incidences of flytipping are reported each day. And we spend more than £1 million a week cleaning up what has been recklessly discarded. In fact, our data shows that almost 50 per cent of the population has admitted to dropping litter.

It is widely accepted that neglected and littered places impact on community safety, are proven to adversely affect the health and wellbeing of individuals, contribute to the fear of crime and spawn other criminal activity. The correlation between the way a place looks and the impact this has on communities should not be underestimated.

So, it’s absolutely time we took our litter shame more seriously. It is time we realised that our own behaviour, good or bad, contributes to the cleanliness of our cities. We need a seismic shift in attitude and we need a change in behaviour now.

We know this is one of the most vigorously complained about issues but things are beginning to change. Across Scotland, positive action is being taken as people in their thousands, fed up with the state of our communities, get behind the Clean Up Scotland Campaign (www.cleanupscotland.com). Launched by Keep Scotland Beautiful in 2012, with the ambition of Scotland becoming the cleanest country in Europe by 2020, the campaign has been enthusiastically embraced by The City of Edinburgh Council, which launched its own Clean Up Edinburgh Campaign the following year.

In partnership with the council, we have supported over 50,000 residents to participate in more than 500 clean-up events across the city, collecting almost 500 tonnes of waste in the process. Those residents have taken real action – they are local heroes but we need more like them.

So, as you read this, think about the kind of city you want to live in. It is easy for everyone to do the right thing. Get involved: help us, to help you, clean up Edinburgh.

Derek Robertson is chief executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful