That is the standard laid down by the national government at a private summit in Edinburgh last week. Higher fines. More clean teams. Rigid enforcement. Education. The pillars are set for a nation set on ridding its land of litter in time for a bevy of tourism events in 2014, the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and year-long Homecoming among them.
I must say Scotland is doing a lot of things right. A Summit on Litter might inspire other countries to do the same. Although a closed affair, the spotlight was right where it should be and litter interests, from Zero Waste Scotland, the National Trust, private businesses, invited agencies and politicians, were all there in a room dealing with it.
Where I live there exists a certain blindness of convenience, an unwillingness to fully admit to a litter problem. They don’t want to look at the behaviour because they are unsure of how to fix it. The real solution is outside their box.
Conference coordinator Catherine Wilson and her team deserve praise for pulling off such an effort in such a short period of time, five months. However, doubt about the effort’s success cloud what should be an optimistic time for everyone.
'Will their proposed measures work?' is the question some wondered aloud before the summit even closed.
To an extent the efforts are destined to succeed by virtue of the number of people committed to them. But if Scotland is seeking to change littering behaviours, there’s a missing link that represents a new approach to dealing with littering. This is what I am told we have discovered by linking litter themes to memorable, catchy interactive songs. Because what’s missing in all the strategies is the element of music and the power it delivers to motivate, to inspire, to remember. Indeed, our program has been described as the “secret weapon”.
The heavy stick of fines and enforcement comes from the school of last resort. Far more effective is to make someone laugh, make them relaxed and receptive, then make them mindful.
Littering is an act of mindlessness. Until authorities come to better understand this point, the cycle of littering may well continue, even after Scotland pretties itself for an estimated 250,000 visitors next year. (Statistically, four in ten of them are prone to littering.)
While I was unable to participate in Scotland’s Litter Summit, I hold great hopes that one of the world’s more progressive countries will seek me out and look at what we’re doing. They need our 'weapon' in their toolbox.