1. Reduce: tackling our throwaway culture
We believe that building an economic system that moves away from being based on items that are designed to be disposable will yield the biggest environmental impacts. We have been taking forward initiatives to create more choices for consumers and businesses to operate in a way that does not rely on a “take-make-dispose” model.
This approach includes the intention to ban or restrict the sale of the priority plastic items set out in the EU’s Single-use Plastics Directive, as described in the ‘current and future activity’ section in the introduction above.
In addition to banning certain items, we also want to attach a value to goods previously seen as disposable, as a means of engaging the public and helping them to understand their responsibility as citizens.
One example of this is the introduction of a five pence minimum charge for single-use carrier bags in 2014, which is estimated to have reduced single-use carrier bag use by 80% within a year of introduction. We are now proposing to increase the minimum charge to ten pence through secondary legislation: further detail about this can be found in chapter 6 of this consultation document.
In May 2018, we formed the Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures (EPECOM) to provide expert advice on measures that may be adopted in Scotland, with the goal of encouraging long-term and sustainable changes in consumer and producer behaviour required to move towards a circular economy.
EPECOM presented its first report in July 2019, setting out recommendations to tackle the dependence on, and environmental impact of, single-use disposable beverage cups in Scotland. The Panel noted evidence that a charge is more effective than a discount in changing behaviour and increasing reusable cup use, and considered that a mandatory charge on a national level would be most effective in levelling the playing field for retailers and ensure consistent messages to consumers.
Case study: Crosshouse Hospital cup trial
Zero Waste Scotland and NHS Scotland worked together to implement a £0.10 charge on single-use disposable beverage cups at University Crosshouse Hospital in Ayrshire, reducing the price of hot drinks by £0.10 to ensure cost neutrality. Plastic-lined paper cups and polystyrene soup cups were replaced with 100% polypropylene cups, which could be recycled within the existing waste system, and Crosshouse staff were provided with free, reusable and 100% recyclable cups. In addition to paying £0.10 less for their drinks, staff using any reusable cup also obtained a stamp towards a free 10th drink. Reusable cup use increased from 1% pre-trial to 43% during the trial, while the recycle rate increased from 0% (the previous cups being unrecyclable) to 75%. Staff survey results showed strong support for making trial conditions permanent across NHS Scotland sites and for more retailers implementing cup charges.
EPECOM will continue to work on recommending further measures for the government to consider in tackling our throwaway society. A holistic approach is likely to focus on a range of measures that recognises that complex problems need complex and diverse solutions. We are aware that we must consider equalities interests and the full life cycle impact of any item when developing future policy in relation to single-use items, in order to prevent any unintended consequences.
Also relevant to tackling single-use items are our litter and marine litter strategies, which set out our approach to tackling land-based causes of litter and preventing litter getting into our seas. In 2018, we updated the Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse (CoPLAR), which sets out the responsibilities on public bodies to keep their land and roads clear of litter and refuse. We are now taking further steps to reduce littering by proposing a new penalty for littering from vehicles: further detail about this can be found in chapter 4 of this consultation.
Environmental charging for items such as single-use disposable beverage cups
Informed by EPECOM’s recommendations and the impact of the single-use carrier bag charge, we are proposing to include within the circular economy bill a power to enable Scottish Ministers to introduce charges on the provision of items, such as single-use disposable items, that are harmful to the environment, that can be replaced with sustainable alternatives or are problematic to recycle.
We recognise that single-use disposable beverage cups, which create 4,000 tonnes of waste in Scotland each year, are of particular concern and are the focus of the recent EPECOM report. The Panel noted evidence which forecasts that consumption of single-use disposable beverage cups in Scotland will rise over the coming years. It is therefore our intention to introduce the secondary legislation to implement the charge on the provision of these type of cups as soon as possible after the circular economy bill has received Royal Assent.
We are also interested to understand views about other items to which a charge might be applied in the future.
Please note that there is a general question at the end of the consultation where you can provide further information, if required.
1. Do you agree in principle that Scottish Ministers should have the power to set charges for environmentally harmful items, for example single-use disposable beverage cups?
C) Neither agree nor disagree
2. Do you agree with the proposal to prioritise introduction of charges for single-use disposable beverage cups?
C) Neither agree nor disagree
3. Are there any others items that these new powers for environmental charging should be applied to in the future?
C) Don’t know
If yes, please specify: