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.

Ending the Throwaway Culture: Five Principles for Tackling Single-use Items

Single-use items have become a defining feature of our modern-day economy and consumer culture. They have transformed the way products and services are provided. However, the rise in items that are discarded after a single use has also led to damaging environmental and social impacts.

The impact of our excessive consumption on both the climate emergency and biodiversity loss is now widely recognised. In response, there is a pressing need to move towards a circular economy. A circular economy is part of the solution to solving these major environmental issues - one in which products, services and systems are designed for reuse to maximise their value and minimise waste.

Aim of the Principles

The environmental imperative to act on single-use items is clear; however knowing the best steps to take in response is less clear. The purpose of these Principles is to provide a robust and holistic foundation to guide thinking about reducing consumption of single-use items.

The Principles will help users and policy makers to widen their perspective and consider single-use consumption as a whole. This will help determine when and how it is appropriate to replace single-use items.

When could the Principles be used?

The Principles are intended to be used at the outset of developing policy and government interventions, but they can be used by any organisation, business, individual or community that wants to reduce their reliance on single-use items. This can be in anything from daily items used by consumers, to designing and delivering services as part of a successful business model.

The Five Principles

The Principles (5Es) help decision makers ensure holistic policy design by thinking through five key aspects:

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?

Report Structure 

This report is divided into three chapters: the problem of single-use items is set out in more depth in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 sets out the ‘Principles’, and Chapter 3 gives guidance and practical examples on how to apply them. Annex A provides a library of additional resources.


Email: EPECOM@gov.scot

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