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Scotland’s ban on single-use plastic items comes into force


01 June 2022

Today, 1 June 2022, will see The Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 come into force (subject to the UK Internal Market Act 2020). This legislation has been introduced to tackle our throwaway culture, and shift Scotland towards a circular economy. The UK Internal Market Act 2020 means that currently the Regulations will only apply to those products manufactured in or imported directly into Scotland from outside the UK. This is, however, set to change in the coming months.

The world is facing major economic, social, and environmental challenges, and the current trajectory for development is unsustainable. In order to reduce unnecessary resource use, and to remove the opportunity for single-use items to become litter we must change our behaviour and challenge our consumption habits.

The new Regulations mean that it is now unlawful to manufacture and supply any of the plastic products set out in the legislation – both online and in-store, whether or not these are supplied for free or charged for (exemptions, e.g., for medical uses, apply). The Regulations apply equally to single-use items made from plastic that is biodegradable, recyclable, and compostable; and this includes items that contain plastic and those that are plastic-coated or plastic-lined.

The products include:

  1. single-use expanded polystyrene beverage containers,
  2. single-use expanded polystyrene beverage cups,
  3. single-use expanded polystyrene food containers,
  4. single-use plastic beverage stirrers,
  5. single-use plastic cutlery,
  6. single-use plastic plates.


Food and drinks packaging in general makes up a significant proportion of the litter currently damaging the quality of local environments across Scotland with our 2020-21 LEAMS survey dataset finding this type of litter to be present in around three-quarters of town centre settings. Further to this, both our 2020 My Beach, Your Beach campaign report, and our Upstream Battle® Citizen Science Report found that plastic cutlery was one of the most commonly found items of litter found on beaches and promenades, and along the banks of the River Clyde.

The banning of these items is therefore a necessary step in protecting and enhancing the places we care for – both terrestrial and marine, along with the habitats and wildlife they are home to.

The Regulations are also an essential part in our transition towards more sustainable models of consumption and a circular economy. Moving away from our current throwaway culture of consumption is a complex task requiring a combination of restrictions, infrastructure innovations and behaviour changes. Restrictions such as these will play a key role in raising wider public awareness of the impact of consumption choices, building a broad base of support for the transition to a circular economy.

The recently launched Highland Community Waste Partnership (HCWP) brings together eight community partners from across the Highlands, scaling up action on waste prevention and reduction in the region over the next three years. Each partner brings their own experience and expertise to the table, with the main areas of focus being food waste, packaging/single-use items and promoting share & repair, as well as raising awareness of how the way that we consume, make, use, and discard goods contributes to the climate crisis.

We support the