Your chance to have a say on single use plastics

We are all aware of the damaging impacts single use plastics can have on our environment - including by blighting our landscapes as litter, polluting our rivers and oceans, and contributing to higher greenhouse gas emissions.

Now, the Scottish Government is consulting on proposals to ban several single use items, including plastic cutlery, drinks stirrers and polystyrene food containers. These are all items identified in the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive as a) having a significant impact as marine litter and b) having suitable alternatives readily available. What’s more, this is a public consultation - so you can have your say and play your part in helping us become a more sustainable society and tackle our litter problem! The more voices calling for the ban and contributing their perspectives the better.

You can respond to the consultation here up until the deadline of 4th January 2021, and we would encourage our supporters to do so to make clear to the Scottish Government the strength of public support for these measures.

We are supporting all proposals in the consultation. Below, we set out some of the key points, stats and examples that we will be highlighting in our response, and that you may find useful to draw upon too.


Question 1: Do you support the proposed restrictions?

a) We will be supporting all of the proposed restrictions. The list of proposed items to be restricted is as follows: single-use plastic cutlery; single use plastic plates; single-use plastic straws; single-use plastic beverage stirrers; single-use plastic balloon sticks; single-use food containers made of expanded polystyrene; single-use cups and other beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene, including their covers, caps and lids; and finally all oxo-degradable products.

b) We are making three main arguments in favour of banning these items: firstly, to reduce the contribution of single use items to Scotland’s litter problem; secondly, to reduce levels of marine litter in particular; and finally, to help us become a society with more sustainable consumption habits overall. Key points we are making include:

  • Our surveys have found food and drinks packaging litter to be present in over three-quarters of town centres in Scotland. Fast food litter in particular makes up a significant proportion of this.
  • Plastic cutlery was fourth most common item of litter found on beaches during our My Beach, Your Beach campaign in 2020.
  • Banning items such as single use plastic cutlery, single use plastic plates and polystyrene food and drinks containers can therefore help tackle this aspect of Scotland’s litter problem.
  • We also know that some of the items in the consultation are key sources of marine litter: plastic cutlery, for example, was the eighth most commonly-littered item found by Upstream Battle anchor groups along the River Clyde during the first 18 months of the campaign.
  • With over 90% of plastic in Scotland’s seas coming from Scottish littering on land, banning these items can therefore also help Scotland play a positive role in addressing the global marine litter crisis.
  • Finally, the sheer quantity of single use plastic items we produce and dispose of today contributes to higher greenhouse gas emissions and the worsening of the climate emergency. We hope that banning these items can move us in the direction of being a much more sustainable society - a circular economy in which we make the very most we can out of all the natural resources we use.


Question 5: Would you support the consideration of market restrictions on items not included within the scope of the proposed measures?

In general, we believe the Scottish Government should be willing to consider introducing further restrictions on other single use items not within the scope of this particular consultation. As long as there are more sustainable alternatives out there, we believe that removing items from the market is an effective way of reducing litter, waste and associated pollution.

In our response, we are also referring to some other items which we believe merit particular consideration:

  • Cigarette litter is the single most frequent type of litter in Scotland, found at 63% of all sites audited by Keep Scotland Beautiful last year - including over four-fifths of town centre settings. To help rectify this, we recently put out a joint public statement with the Marine Conservation Society and ASH Scotland calling on the Scottish Government to introduce a ban on single use plastic cigarette filters.
  • Wet wipes contribute to our marine litter problem by causing so-called ‘sewage-related-debris’, when they are flushed down the toilet leading to sewage blockages and overflows. We are therefore calling for the Scottish Government to ban plastic wet wipes and to consider appropriate Extended Producer Responsibility measures for other types of wipes.
  • Finally, given the huge proportion of litter in our country which is made up of on-the-go food and drinks packaging, we are also encouraging the Scottish Government to consider what other action can be taken with regards to items such as sweets and crisps packaging to help minimise their significant environmental impact.


Question 7: Do you believe the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in changes to the market or wider economy that are not fully accounted for through this consultation?

In our answer to this question, we are calling attention to the growing body of evidence concerning the prevalence of non-medical, single use plastic personal protective equipment (PPE) as litter on our streets over the past few months. While we fully recognise the huge importance and value of PPE, including single use PPE, in safeguarding public health during the ongoing pandemic, we believe it is important that this situation is monitored and further evidence is gathered so as to eventually form the basis of an effective, long-term approach to ensuring that this does not become another persistent and enduring source of litter on our streets and in our seas. Finally, we are also highlighting our new #ReuseBeatsSingleUse campaign in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland and Marine Conservation Society, which aims to raise awareness of this issue and promote the benefits of reusable face coverings.


Question 8: Do you have any other comments that you would like to make?

We are concluding our response by highlighting the importance of considering these restrictions in the broader context of our consumer culture, expressing optimism that the banning of these items can help raise awareness and lay an important foundation for the further changes we need. We also recognise the wider environmental policy context which these measures will hopefully complement, including the upcoming introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers and the planned reform of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging in the next couple of years. While we have a long way to go to truly end our throwaway culture and achieve a sustainable, litter-free Scotland, we believe the proposed measures can be an important step - particularly if accompanied by further initiatives aimed at raising public awareness and achieving fundamental change in our relationship with single use items.

25 November 2020

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