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Rapid Evidence Review of Littering Behaviour and Anti-Litter Policies

As part of a wider research programme on littering in Scotland, we commissioned a rapid evidence review of littering behaviours and policy interventions.

The aims of this study, which informed our overarching ‘Scotland’s Litter Problem’ report, were:

  • To identify, summarise and map existing evidence on littering behaviours, motivations and barriers, and possible opportunities for changing behaviour; and
  • To review evidence to identify existing anti-litter policy interventions and, where, possible, review evidence on the impacts of those measures.

Analysis of the evidence uncovered in the research indicates that littering behaviour is influenced by a number of factors . The concept of ‘litterers’ may be a misleading one. It may be more constructive to think in terms of littering incidents, which are triggered by behavioural cues.

Drawing on this conceptualisation of littering, the research suggests that the most effective way to tackle litter may be a two-strand approach:

  • Raising awareness of what counts as litter, and the impacts of littering; and
  • Targeting specific occasions (which can be defined as ‘bundles’ of activities, people, locations and potential litter items) that generate litter.

Practical applications

The Rapid Evidence Review findings, along with other research we've undertaken, have been used in the production of a toolkit of context-specific communications materials which anyone can access free of charge.

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