Publication - Impact assessment

Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Scotland) Regulations 2021: strategic environmental assessment - post adoption statement

Published: 11 Nov 2021

A report on how we have taken environmental considerations, the Environmental Report and consultation findings into account when finalising the The Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Scotland) Regulations 2021.

Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Scotland) Regulations 2021: strategic environmental assessment - post adoption statement
2. How environmental considerations have been integrated into the market restrictions on problematic single-use plastic items

2. How environmental considerations have been integrated into the market restrictions on problematic single-use plastic items

2.1 Environmental considerations in the chosen market restrictions on problematic single-use plastic items

2.1.1 The design, development, and implementation of the market restrictions on problematic single-use plastic items has been led by environmental considerations, reflecting key Scottish Government commitments and ambitions:

  • To contribute to meeting the recycling target of ensuring 70% of all waste recycled by 2025, as set out in the Zero Waste Plan[11] as part of a clear strategy to make the most of resources and to reduce, reuse and recycle more materials in Scotland.
  • To embed circular economy principles into the design of packaging materials for reuse, recycling and recovery in partnership with packaging industries, as part of the transformation led by the Scottish Government's Making Things Last – A Circular Economy Strategy[12] and the Safeguarding Scotland's Resources: Blueprint for a more Resource Efficient and Circular Economy (SSR)[13].
  • To enable the public to adopt alternative behaviours to waste management, through access to improved recycling opportunities, improved product design, awareness campaigns and targeted exploration to tackle litter on beaches (as part Towards a Litter Free Scotland: A strategic Approach to Higher Quality Local Environments[14] and the A Marine Litter Strategy for Scotland.[15]
  • The 2020-21 Programme for Scotland[16] incorporated plans for the Scottish Government to meet, or exceed, the standards laid out in the SUP Directive stating that "We will consult on banning a number of problematic plastic items identified in the EU's Single Use Plastics Directive, and outline how we will give effect to the wider requirements of the Directive before the end of 2020."
  • The Scottish Government is a signatory to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment[17] committing to embed "ambitious policies and measurable targets in place well ahead of 2025" which target key areas, including "Stimulating the elimination of problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging and/or products".
  • The Scottish Government is a signatory to the UK Plastics Pact, led by WRAP, a collaborative initiative that seeks to create a circular economy for plastics[18].

2.1.2 The principles, aims and objectives of the market restrictions on problematic single-use plastic items are:

  • To prohibit, by law, the supply of certain single-use plastic items in Scotland.
  • To reduce plastic and microplastic waste and resultant pollution within the landscape, ecosystems and habitats of Scotland.
  • To support a shift away from our throwaway culture by making more efficient use of materials as well as reusable and recyclable alternatives.
  • To support the transition to a circular economy.
  • To reduce Scotland's demand for plastic materials.

2.1.3 The market restriction will seek to eliminate over 749 million single-use plastic items, per annum, that fall within the scope of the market restriction (totalling 1,860 tonnes of plastic, per annum, according to the assessments within the Environmental Report). Collectively, these items are responsible for 9,700 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, per annum, based upon the findings of the whole life carbon impacts. The items within the scope of this restriction account for approximately 4.4% of single-use plastic items that are littered in Scotland per annum.[19]

2.1.4 The introduction of market restrictions can reduce embedded carbon impacts associated with the target items. The policy may also reduce material consumption used to generate single-use items if reusable or recyclable alternative items are used, whilst reducing the impacts of litter in our onshore and marine environments and preventing plastic from entering these ecosystems to the detriment of local biodiversity.

2.1.5 The Scottish Government recognises the uncertainty around the potential impact the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 could have on the effect of these regulations, if lower standards are applied elsewhere in the UK.

2.1.6 Due to the uncertainty of the impact of the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 the assessments carried out in this document assume that the Regulations are fully effective.

2.2 Environmental considerations through the SEA

2.2.1 The SEA has played an integral role in highlighting the environmental factors to be considered in the development of the market restrictions on problematic single-use plastic items.

2.2.2 Initially, the 12 topics[20] covered by Schedule 3 (6) of the 2005 Act were reviewed, with 5 relevant topics scoped into the assessment (confirmed through scoping consultation). Table 2.1 details the topics included in the SEA (and the justification for each).

Table 2.1 SEA topics scoped into the SEA

SEA Topic

Justification

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

A driving objective of the restriction on single-use plastic items is reducing single-use plastic pollution and litter in both terrestrial and marine environments of Scotland. The end goal of this objective is to protect, improve and assure the continued abundance ad diversity of the flora and fauna of Scotland. By restricting the sale of certain single-use plastic products, plastic waste levels are expected to decrease, with an attendant decrease in harmful microplastics, that are known to leak into the environment, causing significant harm to the wildlife and flora of Scotland. For this reason, it was considered necessary to scope biodiversity into the SEA. This decision was welcomed and reiterated by statutory consultees.

Soil

Single-use plastic items, and specifically those oxo-degradable products used within the context of agriculture, are designed to degrade in situ. Owing to this there is the potential for fragmentation of this material (into micro-fragments or to chemical decomposition) to have an impact on soil quality as they leak into that soil, decreasing its purity and subsequent utility as a growing medium and habitat. With the market restrictions, the extent to which such materials leak into the soil will be significantly curtailed, with a resultant improvement to the overall purity and quality of soil in Scotland. In consequence, the topic of soil was scoped into the SEA.

Climatic Factors

One of the key objectives of the introducing market restrictions on problematic single-use items is to eliminate fossil-based plastic and support the switch to low-carbon alternatives. Therefore, the adoption of market restrictions will help enable the reduction of greenhouse gases and tackle climate change. In consequence, the topic of climatic factors was scoped into the SEA.

Material Assets

The introduction of market restrictions on the in-scope single-use plastic items will lead to a switch from lightweight single-use plastic items to other non-plastic alternatives which are generally heavier (e.g., wood, paper). This will ultimately have an impact on the amount of waste generated and the corresponding infrastructure used in the recycling process. As such, introducing market restrictions on single-use plastics items is expected to have impacts related to material assets. In consequence, the topic of material assets was scoped into the SEA.

Landscape and Visual Impacts

One of the key objectives of the market restrictions is to reduce single-use plastic pollution and litter in both terrestrial and marine environments of Scotland. As such the market restrictions will have a material impact on the volume of such waste found within Scotland, and the extent to which long-lasting plastic litter pollutes the Scotland's scenery. It is also likely that any replacement products that come to prevalence after the restriction may have less-damaging characteristics i.e. a shorter degradation period than plastic waste, which again would impact the Scottish landscape and its beauty significantly. In consequence, the topic of landscape and visual impacts was scoped into the SEA.

2.2.3 As part of the SEA, and consistent with the requirements of Schedule 3 (1) and (5) of the 2005 Act, the SEA identified and reviewed other relevant plans, programmes and strategies (PPS) which could influence the development and objectives of market restrictions on problematic single-use plastic items. These included PPS at an international/European, national, regional or local level, commensurate with the scope of the plan. The review identified the relationships between the plan and these other documents i.e. how the market interventions could be affected by the other plans' and programmes' aims, objectives and/or targets, or how it could contribute to the achievement of their environmental and sustainability objectives.

2.2.4 For each SEA topic, baseline information was also provided for the current receptors which could be impacted by introduction of the market restrictions. The baseline provided information against which key metrics for the market restrictions (such as tonnes of material avoided and carbon emissions) were assessed to determine the impact of the market restrictions throughout its operation. The evolution of this baseline was taken to be the Business-as-Usual option.

2.2.5 To identify the impact of the market restrictions, the effects of adopting alternative single-use items that are expected to replace the banned single-use plastic items, were analysed and assessed against this Business-as-Usual baseline. This analysis determined the impacts, positive or negative, that the market restrictions could deliver, however it is noted that any increase in sustainable behaviours – such as an increase in the reuse of items – will provide yet greater results.

2.2.6 An assessment of the market restrictions was undertaken in relation to the SEA topics: biodiversity, flora and fauna; soil; climatic factors; material assets and landscape and visual impacts. Table 2.2 sets out the assessment framework, which contains the question used for each topic to undertake the assessment of the effects from the market restrictions.

Table 2.2 SEA Assessment Framework

SEA Topic Area

Question

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

Will it protect and/or enhance designated nature conservation sites e.g., Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas, Sites of Special Scientific Importance, Ancient Woodlands, Marine Protected Areas and Ramsar Sites?

Will it support the protection and enhancement of terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems, including species and habitats, and their interactions?

Will it help avoid pollution of the terrestrial, coastal and marine environments?

Climatic Factors

Will the alternative option contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated in Scotland?

Material Assets

Will it contribute towards achieving Scotland's waste targets?

Will it increase the economic value and utility of affected materials?

Will it reduce 'leakage' of material to landfill or energy recovery or as litter?

Soil

Will the proposal contribute to reducing levels of soil contamination?

Landscape and Visual Impacts

Will the alternative option reduce the visual effects from littering of materials into terrestrial and marine environments and improve their scenic qualities?

2.2.7 The potential effects of the market restrictions were examined to identify, detail and evaluate (where possible) the likely significant effects that could arise drawing on the following to inform the assessment:

  • consultation with statutory consultees and other stakeholders;
  • the contextual information including a review of PPS, the regulatory framework and baseline;
  • the nature of the potential effect (what is expected to happen);
  • the timing and duration of the potential effect (e.g., short, medium or long term);
  • the geographic scale of the potential effect (e.g., local, regional, national);
  • the location of the potential effect (e.g., rural or urban communities);
  • the potential effect on vulnerable communities or sensitive habitats;
  • the reasons for whether the effect is considered significant;
  • the reasons for any uncertainty, where this is identified; and
  • the potential to avoid, minimise, reduce, mitigate, or compensate for the identified effect(s) with evidence (where available).

Contact

Email: supd@gov.scot