This week's Community Column is written by Nik Turner, litter prevention manager with the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority.

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At the start of lockdown, the National Park and other green spaces had a short reprieve from littering. However, since restrictions began to ease, the National Park has been hit with a tidal wave of waste.

We’re not alone. Other beauty spots across the UK have suffered with the same ‘lid off the pressure cooker’ effect too.

Covid-19 created a completely new challenge: people have never been cooped up for so long, so understandably they’re desperate to get out.

The National Park’s beautiful environment will always draw visitors, but with most people’s planned holidays and events being cancelled, it’s possible new people are coming to rural areas who might not be aware of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

READ MORE: Litter campaign plea: Treat Loch Lomond like you'd treat your home

This isn’t a bad thing: everyone should be able to enjoy and benefit from getting out into nature and the recreation activities available here.

However, we can’t make excuses for littering. It’s pretty obvious that plastic bottles, burned out BBQs, abandoned campsites and any other type of litter spoil Scotland’s environment.

It’s a simple ask: either bin your litter, or if there isn’t a bin or it’s full, bag up your litter and take it home.

Local authorities, land managers and people who live and work here are also despairing. So our new ‘Love It Like A Local’ campaign draws together people from across the National Park through two complementary strands of messaging.

We’re featuring real local people’s photos on the positive side to the campaign, with the aim of making those passing through or visiting the area think twice about their behaviour as they see some of those they’re having an impact on.

READ MORE: New plea over litter and parking after council issues 86 penalty notices in Arrochar and Luss

We continue to welcome visitors, and expect most just need a nudge in the right direction when it comes to littering.

However, in targeted locations where littering is an issue, we’re taking a firmer stance. At these sites, we will be reinforcing the social unacceptability of littering with signs sharing real statements we’ve received showing what people really think of littering.

As well as signs being installed, local communities will have access to a toolkit of signage and digital materials to share too.

We also continue to work with our partners to ensure this is backed up with appropriate infrastructure and enforcement, as we continue in our fight against litter.

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