Tackling the negative impact that plastic waste has on our communities, oceans, rivers and land ecosystems has never been more important. Failing to act to protect our finite natural resources and to address the significant economic, social and environmental challenges associated with plastic litter is simply not an option. We must act to address the linear consumption model for single-use plastic items which remains far too prevalent.
Through steps such as the introduction of Scotland's deposit return scheme for single-use drinks containers we are working to improve the way we manage the materials we use, keeping them in high value use for as long as possible. Last year, Scotland became the first country in the UK to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds. However, we know that many of the other single-use plastic items on which we have come to rely must also be tackled. We also know that, in most instances, these items can be substituted for alternatives which mitigate long-term negative impacts on our marine environments.
We need only look at the voluntary steps already being taken by businesses and services across the country to switch to more sustainable products, be it cutlery, straws or food containers. We want to see businesses, services and the public build on these efforts to phase out single-use plastics with a move to a more circular economy, where reusable alternatives reduce the amount of material used and significantly reduce the overall negative environmental impacts associated with the products they supply.
To support us on this journey, this consultation proposes the introduction of market restrictions – effectively a ban – on the single-use plastic items most commonly found littered on European beaches. It represents an important next step in our efforts to tackle our plastic problem, allowing us to maintain pace with the environmental standards of our European partners while re-affirming Scotland's position as a world-leader in the circular economy. Subject to the outcome of the consultation, it would be our intention to legislate for these changes in 2021.
We are committed to working with all of our partners, both domestically and internationally, to implement measures which deliver maximum protection of, and benefit for, the environment in which we live. As part of this, we will continue consider what further steps we can take beyond those set out in this consultation to end our reliance on single-use products.
The ongoing challenges we all face in responding to Covid-19 further reinforce the need for a carefully considered approach to the introduction of any market restrictions. I appreciate how wide-ranging these changes are likely to be. That is why this consultation is so important and I would encourage all of you with an interest in these proposals to take this opportunity to have your say.
I look forward to hearing your views.