Delivering Scotland's circular economy - route map to 2025 and beyond: consultation

Through this consultation we set out our proposals for a Route Map to 2025, our strategic plan to deliver Scotland’s zero waste and circular economy ambitions. This consultation invites views on the proposed priorities and actions to reach our waste, recycling and emissions reduction targets.

Package 1: Promote responsible consumption, production and re-use

Challenge the current approach to consumption and production by improving product design, mainstreaming reuse and repair, and incentivising sustainable choices.

Current actions and commitments

  • Introduce a ban on certain single-use plastic items.
  • Take action to reduce consumption of single-use food containers.
  • Fund re-use projects, infrastructure and businesses through the Recycling Improvement Fund and Circular Economy Investment Fund.
  • Support sharing libraries and repair cafes, increasing the total to 100 by 2025.

Proposed new actions:

  • Take powers to introduce environmental charges to tackle consumption of problematic products and promote a move to more sustainable alternatives.
  • Introduce a charge for single-use disposable cups by 2025.
  • Develop a prioritised approach to charges and bans on environmentally damaging products.
  • Publish a prioritised approach to product stewardship.
  • Take powers to set statutory consumption reduction targets.
  • Investigate the feasibility of a national reuse target.
  • Identify ways to expand business models that prolong product lifespan.
  • Support measures to improve the reuse experience for consumers.
  • Keep pace with the EU Sustainable Product Initiative.
  • Run a national communications campaign focused on sustainable consumption.

Focus of this package

Material consumption and waste are the primary drivers of nearly every environmental problem we currently face, from water scarcity to habitat and species loss.[25] Around four fifths of Scotland's carbon footprint is caused by the production, consumption, and all too often waste, of goods and services.[26] In Scotland we use on average 18.4 tonnes of resources per person[27] - well above the 6-8 tonnes per person considered to be sustainable.[28] Cutting our material consumption is therefore one of the most important ways that we can all limit our impact on the environment.

Around 90% of the carbon impact of Scotland's waste is produced before disposal, during resource extraction, manufacturing, and transport.[29] The way that products are designed and manufactured shapes how long they will last, whether they can be reused or repaired, and how easily they can be recycled. This means we need to consider the whole system, reducing our need for new products, and maximising the life of existing ones. Reducing consumption will help meet all our current targets, and particularly our target to reduce waste generated by 15% between 2011 and 2025.

What we want to achieve

We want to drive system-wide change, moving away from the linear model of consumption moving to a circular economy. We want to challenge producers and manufacturers to phase out the least sustainable products, to reward business models that extend product life span, and to empower consumers to make more informed choices. We want to see better opportunities for reuse, repair, and refurbishment, which are easily accessible and affordable for everyone.

We will need to encourage action across the whole supply chain - there is no single measure that will make the progress needed to deliver a nationwide consumption reduction. In the short term, disrupting and slowing traditional consumption patterns will help deliver our waste and recycling related targets. In the long term, we will need measures that transform our consumption practices and change the way we view and use resources, particularly if we are to achieve our commitment to net zero by 2045.[30]

Building on important action already in place or underway, the additional measures proposed in this package aim to:

  • Increase sustainable product choices which are affordable and available to all

Our current business models too often make the unsustainable solution the cheapest and most convenient. This increases demand for materials and generates unneeded waste. While there is market demand for sustainable products and services, this often comes at a price which is not affordable to many consumers.

  • Prioritise and mainstream reuse

Re-use is one of the clearest ways we can reduce the need for new products and extend the life span of existing products. However, there are currently few incentives to prioritise reuse, particularly compared to the range of existing recycling performance measures. Second hand or reused items are also often seen as low quality or value, and we lack many of the structures we need to make reuse easy and effective.

  • Design for repair and make repair easier

Short-life products are often designed and priced in a way that prevents them from being easily repaired or reused at end of their life. Where repair is possible, the cost and/or availability of repair means that it is often simply easier, more convenient, and often cheaper to purchase a new product instead.

  • Encourage informed, sustainable choices

We rarely have the information we need to make responsible choices. What information there is can be technical, confusing, or misleading. We need to reward sustainable choices and make it easier for consumers to make them.

Where we are now

Waste generated from all sources in Scotland fell by 4.3% between 2011-2018,[31] and there have been steady declines in waste from households (-7%) and from commercial and industrial sources (-22%). However, the total amount of waste we generate varies greatly from year on year, largely due to differences in waste from construction and demolition.[32]

The carbon footprint of Scotland's waste fell by over a third between 2011 and 2018[33] as a result of new policy initiatives and improved waste management. The wider decarbonisation of Scotland's economy is also reducing the carbon footprint of the products we consume and the waste we produce. This is good progress, but we will need to rapidly accelerate this trend if we are to reach our waste reduction target and achieve our commitment to achieve to net zero by 2045.[34]

What we have done

The Circular Economy Investment Fund has been in place since 2014 to support circular and reuse business models.

A 10p carrier bag charge is in place to encourage reuse and reduce the number of new single-use carrier bags used in Scotland.

We have introduced a ban on plastic stemmed cotton buds,which came into force in 2019.

We have established the Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures (EPECOM) to lay the foundations for our approach to reducing single-use consumption. Based on its recommendations, and our commitment to meet or exceed the requirements of the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive, we have set out our intention to introduce a charge on single-use disposable beverage cups and to reduce consumption of on-the-go food containers.

A plastic packaging tax on materials with less than 30% recycled content was introduced across the UK on 1st April 2022.

The Green Claims Code was published by Defra in 2021 to provide guidance to businesses making environmental claims about their products.

UK regulations on Eco-design of energy-consuming products provide ecodesign and energy labelling requirements and a 'right to repair' for specified energy-related products.

We are supporting sharing libraries and repair cafes and will increase the total to 100 by 2025, and we have set up a Reuse Hotline to support sharing and reuse.

What we are already doing

[From 2021]

In 2021 we launched the £70m Recycling Improvement Fund, which includes support for local authorities to increase reuse options available, for example at household waste and recycling centres.

[From 2022]

In 2021 we legislated to ban the supply and manufacture in Scotland of some of the most environmentally damaging single-use plastic items. The ban will come into force on 1 June 2022,[35] and is expected to reduce our demand for plastic and the impacts of plastic pollution in our terrestrial and marine environments.

What we are proposing to do


1. We will take powers to introduce charges for environmentally damaging items[†]

We propose to take powers to introduce charges for environmentally damaging items through the Circular Economy Bill.

A charge or ban on unnecessary products provides a strong incentive to choose reusable alternatives, or to avoid certain products altogether. The introduction of the single-use carrier bag charge in 2014 reduced plastic bag use by 80% in the first year alone.[36] Extending this approach to other products offers an opportunity to further drive sustainable consumption practices. If taken forward, charges would also raise awareness of the environmental impacts of the products we use, helping to reshape our relationship with resources and move to more sustainable models of consumption.

The 2019 consultation on a Circular Economy Bill showed widespread support for these measures. 97% of individuals and 73% of organisations agreed that Scottish Ministers should have the power to set charges on environmentally damaging items such as single-use coffee cups.


2. We will introduce a charge for single-use disposable cups by 2025[†]

We propose to introduce a charge for single-use disposable cups by 2025. An estimated 4,000 tonnes of waste is generated by single-use cups each year, wasting valuable raw materials and generating unnecessary CO2 emissions in the process.

82% of responses to the 2019 consultation on a Circular Economy Bill supported implementing a charge on single-use disposals cups. As well as encouraging consumers to switch to more environmentally friendly re-usable options, introducing a charge on single-use disposable cups will also help the Scottish Government meet its objective of aligning with or exceeding the standards of the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive.[37]


3. We will develop a prioritised approach to charges and bans on other environmentally damaging products from 2025.

We propose to identify what additional measures may be needed to phase out single-use and environmentally harmful products and materials, developing a prioritised approach to bringing in new measures from 2025, which will take account of the findings of our ongoing call for evidence and further consultation. However, we recognise that these measures may have disproportionate impacts on some businesses and individuals, and we will work with affected sectors to understand the implications of introducing any charges or bans.


4. We will publish a prioritised approach to product stewardship by 2024.[†]

To date, product stewardship policies in Scotland have largely focused on extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes (see Package 3). EPR schemes are currently being developed across the UK for packaging, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), batteries, and accumulators. There is also a producer responsibility scheme for end-of-life vehicles (ELVs). We wish to build on this to go beyond recycling and use a wider range of policy tools to drive progress in reuse, repair, and refurbishment, reducing the need for new products being placed onto the market.

We propose to develop and publish a prioritised approach to product stewardship, that identifies at least three priority products for further action. We will identify products based on a range of environmental criteria, including our commitment to achieve net zero by 2045.[38] This will build on the analysis of potential EPR schemes conducted for Making Things Last (2016),[39] considerations within policy frameworks such as the Sustainable Products Initiative and the prioritisation methods used in other countries. We will build our approach into the Circular Economy Strategy proposed in the Bill consultation, to set strategic direction and outline our ambition to 2030.

We will set out the actions we will take on priority products from 2025, ensuring that industry have sufficient autonomy and timescales to act in the most efficient and effective way. If required, we will bring forward any new measures through our current powers under the Environment Act, and new powers proposed in the Circular Economy Bill. However, we recognise that some areas, such as VAT, product standards, product labelling and consumer protection are reserved and so we emphasise the need for action beyond Scotland. We will continue to work collaboratively with UK administrations, for example on the five priorities identified in Defra's 'Waste to Wealth Commitment',[40] recognising the limitations posed by the UK Internal Market Act, and to amplify benefits across the UK.

Measures for which we currently have powers under the Environment Act include:

  • Establishing new producer responsibility schemes.
  • Setting resource efficiency requirements for products placed on the market, including availability of parts for reuse and repair, disposal routes, recycled content, and mitigation of pollutants released during production, use or disposal.
  • Requiring that resource efficiency information is available on features such as product lifespan, recycled content, resource intensity of use and end-of-life disposal.

Finally, we recognise that manufacturers and producers play a significant role in minimising impacts of products and materials, demonstrated through voluntary agreements such as the UK Plastics Pact[41] and Sustainable Clothing Action Plan.[42] By setting out a clear and prioritised approach to product stewardship, and timescales for policy implementation, we will make it easier for industry to take innovative steps to minimise product impacts.


5. We will take powers to set statutory consumption reduction targets.[†]

We propose to take powers to develop statutory consumption reduction targets through the Circular Economy Bill. We believe that there is merit in developing statutory targets to tackle consumption reduction as well as other aspects of the circular economy such as reuse and recycling. As set out in the Circular Economy Bill consultation, any targets will need to be underpinned by a robust monitoring and indicator framework that gives holistic tracking of Scotland's consumption levels and wider measures of circularity which would need to be developed first. This is also consistent with calls from the European Parliament for a suite of indicators to measure resource consumption.[43]


6. We will investigate the feasibility of setting reuse targets by 2025[†]

We propose to investigate the feasibility and impact of setting reuse targets in Scotland by 2025 in order to encourage measures that extend product lifespan, mainstream opportunities for reuse, and support progress towards metrics that monitor consumption.

Few countries have national, legislated reuse targets, but a range of initiatives to implement re-use and preparation for re-use targets are underway throughout Europe.[44] In Scotland, we know that a wide range of reuse activities already take place, from formal redistribution networks to informal sale or exchange. However, we currently have no way to monitor the type, volume or impact of this activity. As with consumption reduction targets, before developing a reuse target we would need to have a robust mechanism in place to monitor reuse.

Any target would consider the scope and nature of reuse, performance measures such as carbon savings or product-specific targets, and the data requirements to assess performance. If this measure is taken forward, we will establish a baseline of reuse activity by reviewing 'preparation for reuse' data from local authorities, alongside accessible data from other sources. If needed, any new reporting requirements could be introduced through the revised data standard and reporting requirements for local authorities (see Package 3), and under the Environment Act[45] for online platforms and other businesses.


7. We will identify ways to expand business models that prolong product lifespan by 2025.

We propose to encourage, incentivise, develop and where necessary provide support for businesses and business models that increase the availability of long-lasting products on the market. Examples could include leasing or subscription models or sharing libraries. As well as reducing the demand for new products, these models are also likely to incentivise upgradeability and repair, and provide clearer routes to improved recycling when products reach their end-of-life.

We recognise the substantial innovation already underway in this space, and that a range of support is already available, for example through the Circular Economy Investment Fund. If this measure is taken forward, we will engage with businesses to understand where additional Government support could help maximise impact and growth. For example, this could include improved skills and training, addressing high start-up costs and other barriers to market entry, or incentivising sustainable consumer and producer choices. We will build on existing support packages to develop an appropriate package of support measures by 2025.


8. We will keep pace with the EU Sustainable Product Initiative[†]

The Sustainable Product Initiative aims to make products placed on the EU market more sustainable. Ultimately, consumers, the environment and the climate will benefit from products that are more durable, reusable, repairable, recyclable, and energy-efficient. The European Commission has recently proposed a range of provisions under the Sustainable Product Initiative including banning the destruction of unsold goods and the development of digital product passports. This is an emerging area of policy development and we recognise that certain issues, such as product labelling, are reserved. We will look to work with UK administrations to take forward joint action where appropriate and utilise powers available under the Environment Act 2021 to keep pace with emerging polices from the Sustainable Product Initiative. The Circular Economy Bill also includes a specific proposal on the introduction of a ban for the destruction of unsold goods.[†]


9. We will develop support measures to further improve the reuse experience for consumers

We propose to build on the significant progress that has been made in accessibility, acceptability, and perception of used items by identifying a package of support measures to optimise the reuse experience for consumers. We have already seen a range of community-based initiatives over the last 10 years, including the Dundee City Council Community Reuse Hub,[46] and the expansion of sharing libraries and repair cafes.[47] We will work with partners to learn from and accelerate progress, by identifying additional support measures to support the normalisation of reuse, including funding routes, collaboration, and integration with other policy initiatives.

If this measure is taken forward, we will expand existing tools such as Revolve support programme and certification to ensure high standards in safety, cleanliness and service, ensure knowledge and good practice is shared, and raise brand awareness so that customers are more knowledgeable about the benefits of reuse and encouraged to do more of it. We will explore the creation of reuse hubs and 'superstores' that bring together repair and resale facilities for a range of products and services, with fully integrated services and alternative business models that encourage re-use. International examples of this approach have had considerable success, such as ReTuna in Sweden, which employs over 50 people and welcomes between 250,000 and 300,000 visitors per year. Finally, we will consider how to integrate online offerings, skills and training, and collaboration with the wide range of existing public and private repair and reuse offerings.


10. We will run a national communications campaign focused on sustainable consumption

We will develop and implement a national communications and engagement strategy to raise consumer awareness of the impacts of consumption. We will identify the key messages and actions needed, and the organisations best placed to deliver these messages. We would aim to commence communications activities from 2023, building on successful household recycling and food waste reduction campaigns in 2021 and 2022, and the launch of the Route Map and Circular Economy Bill.

Figure 4: Actions to promote responsible consumption, production and re-use
TThis shows the proposed timeline of existing and new proposed actions to promote responsible consumption, production and re-use, by the Scottish Government from 2022 to 2030. These measures are set out in the text above.

Consultation questions

Question 1. To what extent do you agree with the measures proposed in this package to promote responsible consumption, production and re-use? Please provide evidence to support your answer if possible.

[Strongly agree / Agree / Neither agree nor disagree / Disagree / Strongly disagree / Not answered]

Question 2. Are there any further measures that you would like to see included in the Route Map to promote responsible consumption, production and re-use?



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