We welcome latest EPECOM report on single-use items

The Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures (EPECOM) has published its second and final report this week, laying out a way forward for tackling single-use items in the context of Scotland’s Circular Economy ambitions. This follows on from the Panel’s first report in June 2019, which made eleven recommendations on tackling single-use cups.

The report sets out the 5Es: Essential functions, Evidence, Equality, Engagement and Entire System, as key principles that can be used by anyone to guide decision-making around single use items on a case by case basis. We welcome this as a well-rounded approach, which acknowledges the variety of contexts and uses of different single-use items and helps guide the development of solutions that are robust, systemic and bespoke. It is an approach that is mirrored in our Cup Movement in Glasgow campaign, which has been pioneering multi-stakeholder, collaborative learning and evidence-based solutions to single-use cup waste since last year.

We are pleased to see the report bringing attention to single-use and, indeed, on-the-go consumer culture as a whole, with a view to phasing out the need for single-use items altogether, where possible. At the same time, we agree that any alternatives must be examined cautiously and holistically and would further draw attention to the importance for any life-cycle analysis to account for materials lost to, for example, leeching or littering.

As such, we welcome too the positioning of litter as an important consideration regarding the impact of single-use items. Our campaign and survey work, from Upstream Battle to Give your litter a lift, has highlighted these time and again, as a significant proportion of the litter polluting our environment. Where the report features single-use PPE items such as masks and gloves as an example of emerging single-use trends, this mirrors our own observations of these as an emerging new type of litter, which we are in the process of assessing. We would go further in this context, to make an explicit link between tackling litter and achieving sustainability objectives, with important implications for carbon emissions and waste reduction, as well as pollution.

Finally, we welcome the inclusion of the ‘Equalities’ principle in this toolkit, which has been lacking in some of the earlier work around single-use items. Such considerations are crucial if we are to achieve Scotland’s ambitions of building a truly fairer, greener and more inclusive society.

In addition to setting out the five principles, the report goes on to present examples of how they can each be applied, with the help of short case studies relating to the Panel’s work on single-use cups last year. We had hoped that Our Cup Movement in Glasgow work could have fed into this, following an independent evaluation, however, this could unfortunately not be progressed in the advent of the pandemic. Still, it is encouraging to find significant alignment between our Cup Movement and the approach laid out in this report. The 5Es will be informing our work in the space of single-use items going forward.

Looking to the future and the journey ahead, it is suggested that the current outlook on a Green Recovery could present an ideal context within which to start making the changes required around single-use items. This aligns with our own views, as expressed in our recent blog on a ‘New normal for single-use cups’.

We are currently reflecting on the findings of the report, as we build on the lessons we learned from Cup Movement to develop future work around single-use items and on-the-go consumer culture. We need to use our planet’s resources sensibly and design and use products sensibly.  But most of all we need to work together as producers, campaigners and consumers to ensure that we are aiming for the same point – a sustainable world.

If you’re interested in working with us to reduce the waste associated with single-use items get in touch at cups@keepscotlandbeautiful.org.

25 September 2020

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