1. Material consumption and waste are the primary drivers of nearly every environmental problem we currently face, from water scarcity to habitat and species loss. Around 75% of Scotland's carbon footprint is caused by the production, consumption, and all too often waste, of goods, and services. In Scotland we use on average 18.4 tonnes of resources per person, well above the 6-8 tonnes per person considered to be sustainable. Cutting our material consumption is therefore one of the most important ways that we can all limit our impact on the environment.
2. Plastic waste, much of it single-use, is not only wasteful but generates litter that is hugely damaging for our oceans, rivers and ecosystems. Every year, hundreds of millions of pieces of single-use plastic are wasted in this country. They litter our coasts, pollute our oceans and contribute to the climate emergency.
3. That is why, as part of our target to reach net-zero by 2045 and tackle the nature crisis, the Scottish Government is taking action to reduce the environmental impact of single-use plastic products. In 2019, as part of our commitment to meet or exceed the standards of the EU Single-use Plastics Directive, Scotland became the first country in the UK to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds and we took further action in 2021 by banning certain problematic single use plastic items, such as cutlery, plates and expanded polystyrene food and drink containers, subject to the impact of the UK Internal Market Act 2020.
4. The Scottish Government's 2021 Regulations, commonly referred to as the single-use plastic regulations, are not, however, the final step in combating consumption of single-use plastics. We are keeping under review what other single-use plastic products, and single-use products more generally, we should consider taking action on next, as part of our move to a more circular economy.
5. Using principles established by the Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures (EPECOM), this call for evidence will help inform future policy development on single-use products, including single-use plastic items. We are using this exercise to collect evidence on single-use products, with a focus on single-use food containers, as the first step to formulating future policy decisions as we move from a linear consumption model of take, make and consume, to a more circular economy that prioritises waste prevention, re-use and recycling. The call for evidence invites evidence on the size and nature of the market for, and environmental impact of, certain single-use items in Scotland.
6. Further policy action on single-use products could include, for example, adding to the list of problematic single-use plastic products whose supply or manufacture is banned in Scotland, introducing environmental charges to encourage consumers to choose reusable or more sustainable alternatives or a range of other supporting measures, including promoting re-use schemes or recommending voluntary action from businesses based in Scotland. This call for evidence also invites evidence on effective actions taken in Scotland or other nations to reduce consumption of certain single-use items; any barriers to implementing policy measures; and the impact that policy measures to reduce the consumption of single-use items may have on people and businesses.
7. Although this call for evidence focuses on single-use plastic food containers, it also asks for evidence on all single-use food containers, and other single-use products. The single-use products we are collecting evidence on are:
- Single-use food containers;
- Plastic bowls, trays and platters;
- Period and incontinence products including plastic tampon applicators and incontinence pads;
- Plastic sachets e.g. condiment sachets used in hospitality settings;
- Plastic tobacco filters; and
- Plastic packaging on fruit and vegetables.
8. There are a number of reasons why we are particularly interested in these items. We know from previous consultation exercises that they are some of the single-use plastic items that the Scottish public would most like to see action taken against. For example, responses to the Scottish Government's consultation on the single-use plastic regulations confirmed that there was almost unanimous support for the consideration of market restrictions on a number of additional priority items, in addition to the items covered by the Regulations.
9. We are aware that many of items covered by this call for evidence frequently escape waste management systems and enter the terrestrial and/or marine environment, and we are exploring whether we need to take additional action to reduce their use and tackle the problems caused by their incorrect disposal. We want to gather further evidence on these items to better inform our approach to achieve a shift away from single-use culture.
10. Two products not included in this call for evidence, but important in relation to the Scottish Government's efforts to tackle single-use plastic products, are single-use beverage cups and wet wipes containing plastic.
11. The Scottish Government has previously committed to take further steps to consult on a minimum charge on single-use disposable beverage cups. This work is underway separately to this call for evidence and the Scottish Government announced on 31 March 2022 the formation of an advisory group to inform the implementation of a minimum charge.
12. In relation to wet wipes, the Scottish Government has supported the development and promotion of WaterUK's Fine to Flush standard which requires manufacturers to make wet wipes without any plastic, and that the products break down through regular water treatment processes. The Scottish Government is firmly in favour of introducing a ban on these products as the most effective mechanism to tackle this growing problem, and we continue to work with the UK Government and the other devolved nations to make that a reality.
13. We are inviting responses to the call for evidence by 30 June 2022. Please respond using the Scottish Government's consultation hub, Citizen Space. Access and respond online at https://consult.gov.scot/environment-forestry/single-use-items. You can save and return to your responses during the consultation period, please ensure that responses are submitted before the closing date of 30 June 2022.
14. If you are unable to respond using our consultation hub, please complete the Respondent Information Form and send to:
Zero Waste Unit
Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ
Handling your response
15. All respondents should be aware that the Scottish Government is subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and would therefore have to consider any request made to it under the Act for information relating to responses made to this exercise.
16. If you are unable to respond via Citizen Space, please complete and return the Respondent Information Form included in this document.
Next steps in the process
18. We would like to thank everyone who provided information for this call for evidence. Following the closing date, all responses will be analysed, and this analysis will inform our approach to further stakeholder engagement on this issue. Respondents who wish to have their responses published will be published here, shortly after the closing date.
Comments and complaints
19. If you have any comments about how this exercise has been conducted, please send them to the contact address above or at SUPD@gov.scot.
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