Bottles top list of litter clogging up Scotland's rivers

Plastic bottles topped the list of the most littered items along Scotland's rivers.Plastic bottles topped the list of the most littered items along Scotland's rivers.
Plastic bottles topped the list of the most littered items along Scotland's rivers.
Plastic bottles are the most littered item along Scotland’s rivers and waterways, according to the results of the first national survey of these environments.

Bottles were followed by plastic pieces, plastic snack packets, drinks cans and polystyrene pieces.

With 80% of marine litter coming from land, environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Upstream Battle campaign focuses on raising awareness, gathering evidence and inspiring action to change littering behaviour to prevent marine litter at source along rivers in Scotland.

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The campaign's recently published volunteer report – a snapshot of data gathered by volunteers across a three-month period between December 2023 and February 2024 – consists of 185 surveys conducted along 26 rivers and waterways in 20 local authority areas across Scotland. It forms part of the national roll-out of the campaign, aimed at understanding and addressing marine litter across the country.

In total 20,383 items were counted, with the majority of litter found to be items which would be addressed under a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) or effective Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations.

The rest of the top 10 items littered include cigarettes, glass fragments, dog faeces, plastic bottle caps and plastic bags.

Barry Fisher, Keep Scotland Beautiful chief executive, said: “On the back of an extremely successful Spring Clean, this report celebrates the efforts of many individuals and groups who took time out of their busy lives to carry out surveys and send data to us, providing us with much needed evidence of the range of items that are damaging our rivers and waterways.

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“The data shows similarities across the country, but also highlights regional nuances - this report highlights the importance of understanding and addressing these issues at a national and local level.

“I’d like to thank everyone who supported this data drive, from our tireless volunteers to our partners and funders who have shared and echoed our message and vision.”

He added: “Scotland’s litter emergency is damaging our rivers. We need our governments to commit to tackling single-use packaging litter through improved Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations and to ensure a Deposit Return Scheme is not further delayed. These policy measures are needed now - litter levels will only get worse without them.”

Keep Scotland Beautiful’s Upstream Battle® campaign raises awareness of how litter from land travels from source to sea - becoming marine litter - and inspires people to take positive action.

Visit Upstream Battle | Keep Scotland Beautiful to learn more.