Criminals were ordered to carry out some 1.75 million hours of unpaid work as punishment for their offences last year, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said.
He spoke as Scottish Government figures showed the number of community sentences given to offenders increased to 19,746 last year - up from 18,044 in 2010-11.
Just over three-quarters of social work orders - such as community service orders, probation orders and community payback orders (CPOs) - started last year had unpaid work or some other activity as a requirement.
But hundreds of offenders given CPOs had to wait more than a month to begin the unpaid work they were required to do, instead of starting within days.
There were 7,776 CPOs - which were brought in as an alternative to short prison services for low-level offences - imposed in 2011-12 where the offender was ordered to carry out work in the community.
These work placements should begin within seven working days of the sentence being handed down - with this happening in 70.9% of cases.
But there were 267 cases where the offender had to wait more than two months to start work, and 309 where this took between one month and two months. Meanwhile there were 1,162 cases where criminals waited more than seven working days but less than three weeks to begin their work placement, with 303 occasions where the wait was between three weeks and a month.
Over the last year offenders have helped repair fallen grave stones, cleaned graffiti off the streets, removed chewing gum from pavements and renovated care homes for the elderly as part of their punishment. Mr MacAskill said this week that criminals had been helping clean up the storm damage in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, as part of their punishment.
He stated: "These figures reflect the first full year of the community payback order being used by the courts to bring offenders to justice. Punishment should be tough and we want to see low-level offenders out making improvements to local communities as payback for the damage they have done.
"Today's statistics show that is happening, with one and three quarters million hours of unpaid work imposed on offenders last year and communities are reaping the benefits right across the country."