Tackling single-use items: independent report

Report from the Expert Panel for Environmental Charging and Other Measures setting out principles that can be used to reduce the dependence on single-use items in society.


This is the second, and final, Report of the Expert Panel for Environmental Charging and Other Measures. This document sets outs five Principles (the 5Es) that can be effectively used to reduce the dependence on single-use items that are commonplace in society. Applying these Principles would allow any policy maker, public organisation, business, third sector organisations/NGO or individuals to understand the complex issues around single-use items and to consider how they could develop a targeted and focussed approach to reduce their use. 

The Panel 

In the Programme for Government 2017-18, the First Minister announced her intention to further develop the circular economy in Scotland through a number of measures, including appointing an Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures. The Panel’s remit was to examine how to reduce demand for single-use items, with the goal of encouraging long-term and sustainable changes in consumer behaviour. 

In May 2018, the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform announced the membership of the Panel. Details of the Panel membership and approach can be found in Annex B. The Panel first met in June 2018 and had a working life of two years. Its purpose was to identify bold actions and provide advice to Scottish Ministers on charges or other measures which may be adopted in Scotland, to tackle our throwaway culture and move towards a circular economy. Following the publication of the Panel’s recommendations on single-use beverage cups in July 2019, this second report sets out the Panel’s view on how further policies to tackle single-use items should be developed. 

Wider context

The Panel’s considerations have concluded in a changed policy landscape; responding to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic has been the essential focus for every country. In Scotland, it has resulted in re-prioritisation to allow the government to focus on essential activity to respond effectively to the issues arising. However, prior to Covid-19 the Scottish Government has indicated, in its Programme for Government 2019-20, that it intends to continue to match the pace envisioned by the EU Directive on plastic products post EU Exit. 

The Panel has developed these Principles to be practical and understandable. As such, the Panel has purposefully made no assumptions about users’ knowledge or understanding of this issue. The aim is that this document can be used by anyone to consider the issues around single-use and what action could best be taken to reduce consumption of single-use items effectively. The focus in tackling single-use should not be solely on plastic, single-use or otherwise, but on any type of item that is designed or suited to being used for only a short time. This is vital to reduce pressure on our natural resources and deliver a circular economy. 

Finally, as the focus moves forward from the immediate Covid-19 response to the long-term recovery, it can be seen as an opportunity to address the issues around single-use items. The pandemic has introduced some new challenges; the rise in use of single-use gloves and masks shows the need to consider how easy it is for new single-use items to become ubiquitous. At the same time it demonstrates clearly why the Panel’s focus on an overall approach rather than specific items was the correct one. 

The recent focus on the economic recovery in Scotland has included a clear message that there is an opportunity, as set out in the Report of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery, to build a greener, fairer and more inclusive society. The Panel is confident that these Principles will be an excellent tool for anyone looking to promote or embrace the green recovery and become part of a more circular economy. There is a clear opportunity to become more sustainable and ethical and demonstrate an understanding of the impact our collective and individual choices and values have on the planet.


Email: EPECOM@gov.scot

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