3.1 Consultation within Government
22. The Scottish Government Environment and Forestry Directorate has engaged with other relevant teams across the Scottish Government regarding the potential impacts of the policy on, for example:
- Socio-economic inequality issues such as low income, low wealth, and area deprivation.
- Different geographic communities including island communities.
- People experiencing disabilities and their carers.
- Businesses, including the food and drink industry and the hospitality sector.
3.2 Public consultation
23. A partial BRIA document was published alongside the Scottish Government consultation paper on the introduction of market restrictions. The consultation was launched on 12th October 2020 and ended on 4th January 2021, seeking views on the items to be covered by the restrictions, and how the restrictions might be implemented. The consultation contained 8 questions with a mix of open and closed (tick-box) questions, including topics such as:
- Items to be covered.
- Future market restrictions
- Environmental, economic, and social impacts
- The impact of COVID-19
24. The analysis was based on 2,689 responses, comprising of 787 substantive (personalised) responses from 90 organisations and 697 individuals, and 1,902 campaign responses (submitted using a standard template), in this case provided by Friends of the Earth Scotland.
25. Organisational responses were submitted by environmental charities, third sector and community organisations (29); packaging manufacturers and other types of manufacturing organisations (22); food, drink, tourism, and other business organisations (16); public sector organisations (11); environmental consultancies and resource management organisations (8); and a small group of other organisations that did not fit into any of the preceding categories (4).
26. A full analysis of the consultation responses and key messages was published on 17th March 2021.
Summary of public consultation findings
27. There was strong overall support from both organisations and individuals for market restrictions to be introduced on single-use plastics supplied in a commercial context.
28. Among individuals, 94% were in favour of a ban on all the items specified in the consultation paper
29. Among organisations, the proportion in favour of a ban ranged from 76% for single-use plastic plates, to 91% for single-use balloon sticks and food and beverage containers made from expanded polystyrene. In general, packaging manufacturers and other types of manufacturing organisations were less supportive of market restrictions on the specified items than other respondents.
30. The 1,902 respondents who submitted their responses through the Friends of the Earth Scotland campaign expressed support for market restrictions on all the specified items.
31. Respondents who were in favour of market restrictions on all the proposed items acknowledged the convenience of single-use plastics but thought:
- The harm to the environment caused by these items was, in most cases, greater than any benefit they provided.
- They were a symbol of Scotland's throwaway culture.
- None of the items in the proposed list could be considered 'essential'.
- Their continued production and use acted as a deterrent to innovation and/or wider use of existing, greener, and more sustainable alternatives.
- Existing alternatives were, in many cases, cheaper than the equivalent single-use plastic item.
32. Respondents in favour of market restrictions on all the proposed items also argued that regulation was needed to 'make change happen' and that banning these items was preferable to charging consumers more for them.
33. Some respondents supported restrictions on most, but not all, of the single-use plastic items specified in the consultation paper. Individuals in this group often identified as disabled and/or raised concerns of the potential implications for disabled people. Most organisations in this group were food, drink, tourism or other businesses, or manufacturers. These organisations highlighted where exemptions should be made, for example in vending machines or in bio-based and compostable take-away packaging. Some organisational respondents in this group called for life-cycle assessments to identify social, economic, and environmental impacts of potential alternatives to the single-use plastic items that are proposed for restrictions.
34. A small group of respondents opposed market restrictions on at least half of the specified items. This group mainly comprised manufacturing organisations or food, drink, tourism, and other business organisations. They argued that, in certain contexts, there were no better alternatives available and they opposed a 'blanket, one-size-fits-all' approach to dealing with single-use plastic products.
35. Respondents were mostly supportive of restrictions on the non-commercial supply of single-use plastics in tackling Scotland's throwaway culture. Those opposed to such restrictions (all of whom were packaging or other manufacturers) highlighted the potential costs of alternatives for charitable and community food groups and the NHS, or they argued that bio-based compostable single-use items should be permitted where reuse is not possible for health, safety, practical or economic reasons.
36. 94% of respondents supported the proposal to introduce a restriction on the manufacturing of the specified single-use plastic items, with similar levels of support among individuals and organisations as a whole. However, food, drink, tourism and other business organisations and manufacturing organisations were divided in their views.
37. Respondents supporting this restriction thought the manufacturing industry needed to take greater responsibility for environmental damage. If the commercial supply of the specified items was going to be effectively banned in Scotland, then it was viewed as 'inconsistent' to permit companies to continue to profit from the manufacture and export of these items to other countries.
38. The most common reason given for opposing a restriction on manufacturing the items was that this would risk Scottish companies becoming uncompetitive internationally, given that such restrictions will not exist in many other countries. (These concerns are addressed in the Competition Assessment.)
39. 80% of respondents were opposed to additional exemptions to the proposed market restrictions, while 20% supported additional exemptions. There were however differences between organisational and individual views on this issue. Most individuals did not support further exemptions, whilst organisations had a roughly 50/50 split between opposition and support. Manufacturing, food and drink, tourism, and other business organisations were more likely than other organisations to support additional exemptions.
40. Support for additional exemptions was mostly focused on groups of items or 'materials', and around two main sectors:
- Medical, care, and independent living.
- Food, drink, and catering.
41. Those opposed to additional exemptions argued that a minimal approach to exemptions should be adopted to provide clarity for all parties; to avoid loopholes which would potentially undermine the aims of the market restrictions; and to increase the effectiveness of the legislation, encourage innovation and maximise the environmental benefits.
42. Exemptions were supported where single-use plastic straws were required for medical reasons or to support independent living. Respondents suggested that disabled people should be consulted to determine how best to implement the proposed exemption, and called for reusable, recyclable, or compostable straws to be developed and made available to these groups instead.
43. Suggestions were also made for how access to plastic straws could be made available for those who needed them, whilst still restricting use for the general public. The two main views given here were that plastic straws could be provided on prescription or through health and social care services, and that they should be made available only upon request; in hospitality venues, for example.
44. More than 94% of respondents, and 79% of organisations, were in favour of additional market restrictions for single-use plastic items. The 1,902 respondents who submitted responses through the Friends of the Earth Scotland campaign wanted to see additional market restrictions cover plastic wet wipes and plastic tampon applicators. The main reasons given by supporters was the immediate and long-term damage caused by single-use plastics and the shift away from these items as part of a broader move to a 'greener', low carbon economy.
45. The main opposition to additional market restrictions came from packaging manufacturers and other types of manufacturing organisations. Comments here included:
- Single-use plastics served an important purpose and that effective alternatives were not always available.
- Other effective ways of dealing with problematic single-use plastics were already planned or being pursued (e.g. EPR, taxes, recycling initiatives).
- Non-plastic alternatives could also cause environmental harm.
46. Environmental, economic, or social impacts relating to the proposed market restrictions were identified by just over a quarter of respondents. Organisations were more likely than individuals to do so. The main impacts discussed were:
- Environmental impacts of alternatives to single-use plastics.
- Impacts of littering.
- Opportunities and challenges for business.
- Need for support for businesses following the changes.
- Role and influence of 'big business' in achieving change.
- Global trade in and use of single use plastics.
- Impacts on health and wellbeing.
- Financial impacts on individuals.
- Impacts on equality groups.
47. 57% of respondents said the COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in changes to the market or wider economy that were not fully accounted for in the consultation. Organisations were more likely than individuals to think this. Respondents thought that COVID-19 had brought economic and social changes which had a potential impact on the single-use plastics market, and the wider aims of the proposed market restrictions. Changes were identified within the retail, hospitality and catering, service, health and social care, leisure and recreation sectors, and in people's working arrangements (including home working).
48. Respondents also identified changes in public attitudes and behaviours, and increased costs for businesses. While there was broad agreement over COVID-related changes, there was less agreement over the appropriate response to these changes and the implications for introducing market restrictions on single-use plastic items.
49. Other comments mostly involved endorsement of the proposed market restrictions and/or to emphasise the need for urgent action in this policy area. Respondents wanted the Scottish Government to 'go further' to address the problem of plastic and to facilitate a move to a more sustainable, 'greener economy'. Respondents also called for the (re)introduction of the Circular Economy Bill to the Scottish Parliament. These comments were made by the 1,902 respondents from the Friends of the Earth Scotland campaign, and other individuals. Some manufacturing, food, drink, tourism, and other business organisations provided information about ongoing work to improve the sustainability of products and stressed the importance of a collaborative approach in progressing work in this area.
3.3 Business consultation
50. The aim of the engagement with businesses was to identify: (1) the current state of the market for the specified single-use plastic items in Scotland; (2) the evidence base related to individual items (e.g. sales volume; unit cost per item); (3) industry views around the impact of market restrictions for the items; and (4) the potential for unintended consequences of market restrictions.
51. To understand the full impacts of the legislation on small, medium, and large businesses, discussions were held with an appropriate cross-section of affected stakeholders.
52. Results of the business consultation have informed and will be presented in the Competition Assessment and Scottish Firms Impact Test sections.