The introduction of market restrictions on problematic single-use plastic items forms part of a package of wider measures being taken forward by Scottish Ministers to address marine litter and support a shift away from our throwaway culture.
This review considers potential equality impacts associated with a market restriction on single-use plastic items based on those identified in Article 5 of the EU Directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment (2019/904) (hereafter referred to as "SUP Directive").
The following single-use items are included:
- Plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks)
- Plastic beverage stirrers
- Plastic plates
- Plastic straws (with some exemptions)
- Plastic balloon sticks (with some exemptions)
- Food and beverage containers and cups for beverages made of expanded polystyrene (EPS/XPS), including caps, covers and lids
Plastic-stemmed cotton buds are also included in Article 5 of the SUP Directive. However, the Scottish Government has already applied measures to restrict the manufacture and sale of these items. Therefore, this item will not be considered in this impact assessment.
The following definitions in the Regulations are applied to this EQIA:
- 'Plastic' means a material consisting of a polymer as defined in point 5 of Article 3 of Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006, to which additives or other substances may have been added, and which can function as a main structural component of final products, with the exception of natural polymers that have not been chemically modified.
- 'Single-use plastic product' means a product that is made wholly or partly from plastic and that is not conceived, designed or placed on the market to accomplish, within its life span, multiple trips or rotations by being returned to a producer for refill or re-used for the same purpose for which it was conceived.
Plastic straws used for containing granular medicines may be considered as packaging and are not used for drinking. They are therefore not considered here. Similarly, straws used for delivery of medicines and in relation to implantable medical devices are not included in this assessment.5,6
Interaction with other policies
The market restrictions form part of a suite of measures being taken by the Scottish Government to reduce our reliance on single-use items, including the planned introduction of an environmental charge on single-use cups and an increase to the charge placed on single-use carrier bags.
This policy also has the potential to interact with the work underway to implement a new UK-wide extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme for packaging.
Who will the policy affect?
This policy will potentially impact all consumers in Scotland who make use of the single use items included in this policy. There will also be impacts for businesses that supply, distribute and utilise these items.
The following exemptions to the market restriction are included:
- Single-use plastic straws perform a vital function which cannot be easily replaced with a more sustainable alternative or provide crucial quality of life-enhancing functions for disabled people. Therefore exemptions will be in place to allow for supply by catering establishments and pharmacies, provided that certain conditions are met. Supply will also be permitted in care homes, schools, and premises for early learning and childcare, day care or childminding and prisons or other places of detention
- Single-use plastic straws are also exempt when being used;
- As a medical device (as under the Medical Devices Regulations 2002)
- For medical purposes, meaning the purposes of preventative medicine, medical pharmacy business or a catering establishment
- For packaging such as straws used to package granular medicines. This does not include straws which are attached to packaging, such as single-use plastic straws attached to drinks cartons.
- In the course of a support service which provides personal care or personal support
- Single-use plastic balloon sticks which are to be attached to or support balloons for industrial or other professional uses and applications that are not distributed to consumers, including the mechanisms of such sticks, will be exempt from market restriction.
The EQIA process considers the potential for disproportionate impact related to the following nine protected characteristics.
- Gender reassignment;
- Pregnancy and maternity;
- Sexual orientation; and
- Marriage and Civil Partnership;
The purpose of focussing on these protected characteristics is to:
- Eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation;
- Advance equality of opportunity; and
- Foster good relations.
It is important to note that the protected characteristics are not independent of each other and some people may be affected by complex and interconnected issues related to disadvantage at any one time.
The partial EQIA identified the potential for disproportionate impacts for the following protected characteristics;
The partial EQIA research also recognised the lack of published research regarding the potential for impacts on other protected characteristics. This was considered particularly relevant for race, so this characteristic was considered in the engagement strategy to support the final EQIA. However, no specific impacts related to race were identified.