Ending Scotland's throwaway culture

Experts advise on replacing single-use items.

A new report sets out how we must focus on reducing our dependence on single-use items and highlights the impact the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had on people’s behaviour, with new single-use items becoming part of everyday life.

It proposes five principles that can be used to consider how single-use items like cups, cutlery and sauce sachets can be reduced or replaced with alternatives to help combat waste and support Scotland’s journey to net zero.

It’s the second report to be published by a panel of experts tasked by the Scottish Government with advising how we can reduce our reliance on single-use items. Their first report, on disposable beverage cups, recommended a charge should be introduced.

The panel’s second suite of advice is intended to provide long-term support to decision making on reducing or removing single-use items from circulation, focusing attention on current problem items but also offering the framework of principles to help assess action when new single-use items become prevalent. 

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

“We were making substantial progress against single-use plastics before the Coronavirus pandemic and await evidence about the extent to which it has changed public attitudes and consumption of plastics and other single-use items.

“What is clear is that we must learn from our experience of lockdown – how we work, how we travel, how we live – and apply this to our approach to becoming a net-zero society.

“As this report points out, a thriving circular economy will play a critical role in ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change, and we must all – government, businesses, industry and individuals – be a part of driving this.

“I welcome this report, which will support our continuing journey to net zero and am grateful to the panel for the considered and expert advice they have provided .”

Chair of the Expert Panel on Environmental Charges and Other Measures Dame Sue Bruce said:

“I hope that the Five Principles for Tackling Single-use Items will be useful to policy makers and organisations who want to use this opportunity to develop greener ways of working as they prepare for the “new normal” by considering how they can reduce dependence on single-use items and to focus on being part of the green recovery.

“There has never been a better time to take steps to reduce environmental harm arising from our everyday habits. This must continue to be a priority for us all if we are to achieve the goal of being a net-zero society by 2045.”


The report Ending the Throwaway Culture: Five Principles for Tackling Single-use Items is available on the Scottish Government website.

The five principles recommended by the Expert Panel to help policy design on single-use items are:

  1. Essential Functions: Is the single-use item essential?
  2. Evidence: What is known about the problem?
  3. Equality: In solving the issue can we ensure equality?
  4. Engagement: Who can tell us more about the issue?
  5. Entire System: How is single-use reinforced by current practices, habits and infrastructure?

Further information about the Expert Panel, including its membership and remit, is also available.

The Panel published its first report in July 2019.


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