5. The reasons for choosing the market restriction, with amendments from the proposals as detailed in the SEA Consultation
5.1.1 The adopted approach to the market restrictions reflects the evidence gathered, the assessments undertaken, the results of modelling and the consultation findings. The outcome has shown that the market restrictions can provide positive outcomes for Scotland.
5.1 Reasons for choosing the market restriction, with amendments from the proposals as detailed, in the SEA Consultation
5.1.1 Market restriction is the most effective policy measure to limit plastic litter, as it eradicates the presence of the targeted items from the Scottish market, therefore from terrestrial and marine environments, whilst supporting the transition to a circular economy.
5.1.2 The market restrictions for the targeted single-use plastics have been chosen where suitable alternatives are readily available and following balanced consideration of the environmental benefits, commercial viability, technical practicalities and the views of consultees.
5.1.3 Following on from stakeholder feedback from consultations, the Scottish Government has decided not to include bowls, trays and platters as well as plates within the restrictions. These products were found to be better suited to considerations for the remaining Articles of the SUP Directive. These regulations do however go further than Article 5 of the SUP Directive by banning the manufacture and supply of single-use plastic plates.
5.1.4 Oxo-degradable plastics are also not included within the restrictions at this point in time. This is an area of significant complexity and rapid change and Scottish Government is currently collecting further information on this area.
5.1.5 Features of the selected approach include:
- A market restriction on the supply of specific single-use plastic items.
- An anticipated elimination of 749 million single-use plastic items per annum.
- A potential reduction of up to 57% in carbon impacts, equating to carbon savings of approximately 5,500 tonnes CO2e, per annum, due to the shift from high-carbon fossil-based materials to low-carbon materials (e.g., paper).
5.1.6 Following the publication of the Environmental Report, the Scottish Government facilitated an online public consultation exercise with both statutory consultees and the public.
5.1.7 The consultation exercise found overwhelming support for the introduction of the market restrictions.
5.1.8 Responses across the full consultation exercise, from the Scoping and Screening report, as well as the Environmental Report, indicated widespread support of the market restrictions.
5.1.9 The majority of respondents agree that the Environmental Report has correctly identified the likely significant effects of the market restriction on the specific single-use plastic items and oxo-degradable products and are supportive of the recommendations for mitigation and enhancement of the environmental effects set out in the Environmental Report.
5.1.10 Whilst the majority of public respondents (93%) agree with the arrangements for monitoring the significant effects of the market restriction, the statutory consultees have raised recommendations that monitoring proposals be strengthened to ensure that the environmental impacts of replacement items are monitored to prevent environmental degradation from alternative materials.
5.1.11 Discussion on the proposals for monitoring measures is provided in Section 6 of this PAS.
5.2 Reasons for the rejection of a Business-as-Usual approach with no market restrictions
5.2.1 The 2005 Act requires that the likely significant environmental effects associated with reasonable alternatives to the plan or programme to be adopted (in this case, the market restrictions on selected single-use plastic) are assessed as part of the SEA process. Within this context, reasonable alternatives are defined in reference to the objectives and geographic scope of the plan or programme.
5.2.2 The Environmental Report has explored the potential impact of the market restrictions by considering the alternative products that consumers may use, once the restrictions are in place and the single-use plastic items are no longer available. In this respect, discussion regarding any "reasonable alternative" has looked at the alternative single-use items that would increase in demand, under the implementation of the market restriction.
5.2.3 For each of the restricted single-use plastic items, market research was conducted to identify the most common and likely product alternative. Each alternative has been assessed in turn to identify, describe and evaluate (where possible) the likely significant environmental effects that could arise from its implementation. It is those materials that are considered as the "reasonable alternatives" across the assessments undertaken to understand the impact of the market restrictions. The alternative items available are numerous, the assessments explored common alternative items:
- Wooden cutlery was considered as a reasonable alternative to plastic cutlery.
- Paper plates were considered as a reasonable alternative to plastic plates.
- Wooden stirrers were considered as a reasonable alternative to plastic beverage stirrers.
- Wax-lined paper straws were considered as a reasonable alternative to plastic straws.
- Cardboard balloon sticks were considered as a reasonable alternative to plastic balloon sticks.
- Fibre-based food containers were considered as a reasonable alternative to food containers made from expanded polystyrene.
- Plastic-lined paper cups were considered as a reasonable alternative to cups made from expanded polystyrene.
5.2.4 The impact analysis assumes that target items removed from the market are likely to be displaced by an equal number of alternative single-use items in a worst-case scenario. As previously noted, one of the aims of aligning with Article 5 of the SUP Directive is to reduce the amount of plastic waste leakage both within and out with the Scottish ecosystem. To that end, the alternative products identified are generally constructed of materials which have a reduced impact on marine environments and biodiversity, and which will likely have shorter degradation periods. These considerations and others were noted within the analysis.
5.2.5 It is possible however, that some items may be prevented through avoided consumption or reuse, which would result in greater environmental benefits. The extent of reuse and avoided consumption will depend in large part on supporting measures put in place.
5.2.6 The policy of the market restrictions has been subject to a range of analyses. The alternative materials have been shown to demonstrate a positive environmental effect across all topic areas assessed, against the Business-as-Usual baseline, where single-use plastic items would be used. alternative single-use items are expected to have a less negative impact on the quality of Scotland's biodiversity, soils, climate and carbon emissions, material demand and landscape compared to the use of the targeted single-use plastic items.
5.2.7 The Scottish Government understands the problems caused by single-use items cannot be solved by replacing them with alternative single-use items made with different materials. While the focus is on the items listed in the Environmental Report and the public consultation exercise, the Scottish Government wishes to see innovative solutions towards more sustainable business models and reuse alternatives prioritised over substitution of materials.
5.2.8 The introduction of market restrictions 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, as outlined on page 6 of the Consultation Paper including market restrictions on microbeads and plastic-stemmed cotton buds which came into force on 19th June and 12th October respectively, as well as a 10p levy on single-use carrier bags. The Scottish Government is now proceeding to establish a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, including PET plastic bottles.
5.2.9 The Scottish Government is committed to monitoring closely the response to these restrictions and assess what more needs to be done to address our throwaway culture (see Section 6 of this PAS). The intention is also to consider market restrictions for other items in the future and this is explored further in the consultation.