To ensure placing market restrictions on several single-use plastic products is the most appropriate approach for Scotland, two different policy options are under consideration.
21. Each option is assessed against the following strategic objectives:
- Reduce the volume of plastic waste created
- Reduce the amount of plastic waste entering our rivers, lochs and seas
- Reduce the number of products littered where reusable substitutes exist
- Encourage wider behaviour change around materials
22. The products, to which the options apply, are aligned with those included in Article 5 of Directive (EU) 2019/904, the European Union’s Single-Use Plastics Directive. Note that a restriction on the sale of plastic stemmed cotton buds has already been implemented in Scotland.
- Single-use plastic straws
- Single-use plastic cutlery (including forks, knives, spoons, stirrers and chopsticks)
- Single-use plastic plates
- Single-use plastic balloon sticks
- Single-use food containers, cups for beverages and other beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene, including their covers, caps and lids
- Products made from oxo-degradable plastics.
|Item||Consumption Volume (million units per annum)||Materials (single-use)||Materials (multi-use)|
|Plastic straws||Large drinking straws||300||
|Beverage carton straws||
|Plastic cutlery||Drink stirrers||9.9||
|Plastic plates (including trays and bowls)||50||
|Plastic balloon sticks||1.7||
|Food containers made from expanded polystyrene, including their covers and lids||66||
|Cups and other beverage containers made from expanded polystyrene, including their covers and lids||45||
|Oxo-degradable products||Uncertain but very small market share|
Option 1: No policy change – business as usual
23. Option 1 is the baseline against which the costs and benefits of the implementation of Article 5 of the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive in Scotland will be assessed.
24. Under this scenario, it is assumed that retailers and the hospitality sector continue to voluntarily reduce avoidable plastics and find plastic-free alternatives. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, some manufacturers had already started using alternatives to plastic in their production of straws, cutlery, plates, balloon sticks and food and beverage containers, and communities in parts of Scotland have created “plastic-free” groups and events. The Scottish Government continues to support the wide array of voluntary actions that are taking place on disposable single-use plastics.
25. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in the use of at least some disposable items. Balanced against this, large sections of the hospitality sector have experienced considerably lower demand as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. Whether these trends result in an overall increase in the use of single-use plastics items for 2020 is still unclear. Further information will be collected and presented in the final BRIA. A programme of engagement by Zero Waste Scotland with manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and end-users began in August 2020 and will be supplemented with the findings from the consultation process.
26. Disposable single-use plastic items are still imported, made, bought and used in Scotland. Significant numbers of these items occur as litter (thereby creating societal disamenity costs) and enter Scottish waters (threatening the health of the marine environment). Under this scenario, consumers would not be incentivised to limit the use and disposal of plastic items and manage them effectively, other than through their own motivations to protect the environment. Plastic items would, in many cases, remain cheaper than materials with less impact on our marine ecosystems.
Costs and Benefits
27. No additional financial costs or burdens will be placed on enforcement bodies in Scotland. However, market failure continues to exist because the true cost of plastic waste is not reflected in the price of single-use disposable plastic items. Plastic waste, pollution and litter continue to damage the terrestrial and marine environments and its wildlife which provide essential ecosystem services.
28. Further analysis of costs and benefits will be detailed in the final BRIA.
Option 2: Market restrictions on the specified single-use plastic items
29. Under this option, legislation will make it an offence to supply (and potentially manufacture) certain single-use disposable plastic products.
30. Through our Equalities Impact Assessment we will work with different groups across society to consider targeted exemptions to these restrictions for medical, health and wellbeing purposes as well as independent living.
Sectors and Groups affected
31. The following sectors and groups will be directly or indirectly impacted by the market restriction of affected single-use plastic products:
- Producers and importers of affected single-use plastic products for the Scottish market
- Retailers and wholesalers selling affected products onto the Scottish market
- Hospitality (including pubs, clubs, bars, hotels, restaurants, cafes)
- Healthcare sector
- Public sector
- Third Sector
- Waste Management Sector.
32. At this stage it is not apparent to what extent different sectors and groups would be impacted. The results from the public consultation process will be used to inform our understanding in this area.
Costs and Benefits
33. Society will benefit from a substantial reduction in the volume of plastic items occurring as litter (thereby creating societal amenity benefits) and ending up in Scottish rivers, lochs and seas. We intend to gather further information via this consultation and further policy development to enable us to quantify the impact of relevant single use plastic items. Any relevant quantifiable data will be included in the Final BRIA.
34. On a global basis it has been estimated that damage caused to marine ecosystems services are as high as $2.5 trillion each year.
35. Costs associated with the introduction of market restrictions on affected single-use items include enforcement costs for public bodies and we will work to quantify these with a view to their inclusion in the Final BRIA.
36. New costs for businesses may, for some items, also arise from a switch to alternative products, including either reusable items or products manufactured using different materials. In some cases, alternative single-use products may have other environmental impacts than those made from plastics, while reusable products could have a positive carbon balance, depending on how often they would be reused. Research undertaken for the EU has indicated price differences between -0.007 euros and +0.146 euros for the specified single-use plastic items and their substitute products. The research was conducted in 2018, and used data sources from across the EU, including some from the UK. As a proportion of turnover to affected businesses, the costs of purchasing alternatives will, in many cases, be low. For example, based on the price differentials and consumption volumes for large drinking straws presented here, the additional national cost of switching would amount to £190,000. One key benefit of the policy is the reduction in the harm caused to Scotland’s marine environment by single-use plastic items. Although, despite the relatively low cost to organisations, it is important to remember that the true cost of plastic waste is not reflected in the price of single-use disposable plastic items.
|Single-use plastic items||Single-use non-plastic items|
|Drink cup lids||0.029||N/A|
Further analysis of costs and benefits will be detailed in the final BRIA.