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10 December 2014, 05:00
A total of £10 billion a year is spent picking up litter across Europe, with the bill in Scotland amounting to £73 million, an environmental charity has said.
Derek Robertson, chief executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful and president of the Clean Europe Network, disclosed the "shocking'' cost of clean-up work at a special summit in Brussels, Belgium.
He said: "This £10 billion cost equates to over £20 for every man, woman and child across the EU - a shocking statistic and one which should startle policy-makers into long overdue action.''
The Stop Litter Now! summit is bringing together the public and private sector in a bid to look at the cause of Europe's litter problem and what can be done to tackle it.
The event will hear how the Clean Up Scotland campaign, involving the Scottish Government, local councils, the voluntary sector, private firms and others, has led to more than 500,000 people volunteering for clean-up initiatives since it was launched two years ago.
The campaign aims to make dropping litter as socially unacceptable as drink-driving and for Scotland to be the cleanest nation in the European Union.
Mr Robertson said it was "vital that we prioritise the creation of clean communities in the first place'' and added: "We want to build and strengthen a culture of cleanliness across Europe.
"In Scotland, we want our country to be the cleanest country in Europe by 2020 and build a litter-free Europe by 2030.
"With 500,000 people in Scotland having already played their part in changing their local environment, our domestic Clean Up Scotland campaign is genuinely showing the way ahead to the rest of Europe.''
The Scottish Government's Zero Waste Scotland programme is driving the country's first-ever strategy to tackle littering,
Chief executive Iain Gulland said the £10 billion Europe-wide clean-up cost "shows litter is a huge problem across the whole of Europe, not just Scotland''.
He added: "Our research has identified that litter costs Scotland at least £78 million a year, including the direct costs of litter clearance, communications and enforcement, as well as wider costs associated with impacts on health and wellbeing, crime, wildlife and our environment.
"There's a lot we can do in Scotland to tackle the problem, driven by the Scottish Government's litter strategy.
"As well as clean-up activities, Zero Waste Scotland is funding innovative solutions to preventing litter, designing out unnecessary packaging, incentive schemes for communities and imaginative communications to get people to think again about dropping litter, which blights many communities across the country.''