Publication - Impact assessment

EU single use plastics directive consultation: impact assessment - environmental report

Environmental report for a consultation on the introduction of new legislation to restrict the supply of seven single-use plastic items and all oxo-degradable products, in Scotland, with the intended effect of reducing the volume and impact of plastic pollution within terrestrial and marine environments.

146 page PDF

1.9 MB

146 page PDF

1.9 MB

EU single use plastics directive consultation: impact assessment - environmental report
1. Introduction

146 page PDF

1.9 MB

1. Introduction

This section provides an outline of the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive alongside the requirements of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005. It then presents the objectives, purpose and content of this Environmental Report.

1.1 Background to EU SUP Directive

The European Union's Single-use Plastics directive (SUP Directive) was adopted by European Parliament and European Council on 5 June 2019. The Directive requires that members of the European Union transpose it into national laws, regulations and administrative provisions.

The SUP Directive applies to the single-use plastic products listed, products made from oxo-degradable plastic and to fishing gear containing plastic. The Directive covers single-use plastic products that are fossil-based and bio-based, regardless of whether they are recyclable, biodegradable or compostable. Single-use plastic products made of multi-layered or composite materials, such as plastic-coated paper or plastic-lined cartons, are also in scope of the SUP Directive.

A single-use plastic product, for the purpose of the SUP Directive, is a product that is made wholly or partly from plastic and "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."[5]

The SUP Directive acknowledges that plastic plays an important role in everyday life due to its versatility and subsequent breadth of application, together with its low cost and high performance. The Directive also denotes however, that the growing use of short-lived and single-use plastics which do not lend themselves to cost effective recycling has precipitated linear and excessively wasteful consumption models. The prevalence of such products is directly linked to pollution of oceans, rivers and land ecosystems, representing a significant global challenge.

In its communication of 16 January 2018, entitled 'A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy',[6] The European Commission advised of the need to combat the steady increase in plastic waste generation, and the leakage of plastic waste into the European and global environment, and specifically the marine environment.

The Strategy for Plastics was developed in pursuance of a more circular economy in which the production and subsequent utility of plastic products would adhere to the principles of reuse, repair and recycling. Concurrently, the strategy called for the establishment of a specific legal framework that could mitigate environmental, health and economic detriments caused by the continued use of certain plastic products.

The single-use plastic products covered by measures under this Directive are among the most-commonly found items on beaches within the European Union. The items specified within Article 5 are estimated to represent around 50% of the single-use plastics found, in counts, on beaches within the EU.

Reducing marine litter is a key action under UN Sustainable Development Goal 14,[7] which call for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. The SUP Directive has been identified as a way in which the European Union 'plays its part' in the prevention and intercedence of marine litter. It is an essential element of the Commission's Circular Economy Action Plan[8] as it stimulates the production and use of sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic products. The Directive is complemented by other measures taken against marine Pollution, such as the Directive on Port Reception Facilities[9] that has been constructed to tackle marine waste originating from ships, and which necessitates that waste generated on ships or collected at sea must be returned to land for recycling and processing.

The Directive will also contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12[10] which ensures sustainable consumption and production patterns, forming an integral part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the UN General Assembly on 25 September 2015. Further, by retaining the value of products and materials for as long as possible and generating less waste, the economy of the European Union will be more competitive and more resilient while alleviating pressure on precious resources within the environment. The Directive will have the predicted effect of avoiding the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent throughout the EU; and is also estimated to avoid environmental damages which would cost the equivalent of €22 billion by 2030. In relation to economic benefit, the Directive is predicted to save consumers a projected €6.5 billion.[11]

Table 1‑1 Key facts on the introduction of market restrictions on problematic single-use plastic items in Scotland

Responsible Authority: The Scottish Government

Title of PPS: Introducing Market Restrictions on Problematic Single-Use Plastic Items in Scotland

What prompted the PPS?: In the 2019-20 Programme for Government, the Scottish Government announced plans to meet or exceed the standards set out in the European Union Single-Use Plastics Directive Article 5 (Restrictions on placing on the market) in order to tackle marine litter coming from the most common single-use plastic products, with a public consultation anticipated to take place in late 2020. This commitment by the Scottish Government will result in the implementation of market restriction on the supply of many problematic single-use plastic and oxo-degradable plastic products, each of which has been identified as having readily available, more sustainable alternatives already present within the domestic marketplace.

Subject (e.g. transport): Waste

Period covered by PPS: 2020 onwards

Frequency of updates: A further update on the Scottish Government's plan to introduce market restriction on the supply of a number of single-use plastics will be provided post-consultation. Thereafter, monitoring and evaluation will be conducted in line with the relevant sections and Articles of the Single-Use Plastics Directive.

Area covered by PPS: Scotland-wide

Purpose and/or objectives of PPS: The Scottish Government fully supports the EU vision of phasing-out single-use plastics wherever possible. By introducing a market restriction on single-use plastics, this will contribute to the achievement of Scotland's existing waste policies and targets and will also help to reduce single-use plastic litter in Scotland's terrestrial and marine environments. Furthermore, the Scottish Government intends to not only implement the policy measures set out in the EU SUP Directive but is committed to building on these to strengthen Scotland's position as a leader in the Circular Economy.

PPS Contact:

David Barnes
Moray House, Forthside Way

Phone: 01786 433 969

SEA Contact:

Michael Lenaghan
Moray House, Forthside Way

Phone: 07712 328341

1.2 Background to Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

In 2005 the Scottish Government established the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act.

This Act, which came into force on 20 February 2006, replaces the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes (Scotland) Regulations 2004 as the transposition vehicle for the SEA Directive (European Directive 2001/42/EC "the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment").[12] The Act requires that environmental assessment is undertaken on all plans, programmes and strategies of a public nature which are likely to have significant environmental effects. The main benefits of the SEA process as set out in the 2005 Act are as follows:

  • SEA improves the information base for plan, programme and strategy (PPS) preparation, providing clear information on the possible impact on the environment and influencing the preparation of the PPS, while building in better environmental protection and outcomes;
  • SEA provides a rigorous system for including environmental factors in decision-making, thus supporting a sustainable development approach;
  • SEA facilitates an improved consultation process, including the rigorous assessment of reasonable alternatives;
  • SEA also facilitates transparency, by requiring that an analysis of public comments is undertaken and made publicly available;
  • SEA facilitates the consideration of cumulative effects and provides a means to prevent, reduce and, as fully as possible, offset any potentially adverse environmental effects.

The objectives of the SEA Directive, as set out in Article 1, are "to provide a high level of protection to the environment and to contribute to the integration of environmentalconsiderations into the preparation and adoption of plans and programmes with a view to promoting sustainable development".[13] These objectives were considered essential within the context of Article 5 of the SUP Directive.

The SUP Directive aims to tackle pollution from single-use plastics and fishing gear (these being the items most commonly found on European beaches) and promote the transition to a circular economy. The SUP Directive applies to the single-use plastic products listed, products made from oxo-degradable plastic, and to fishing gear containing plastic.

Scottish Government has screened the introduction of market restrictions on single-use plastic items in Scotland against the requirements of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 and identified that, as it is likely to have significant environmental effects, a Strategic Environmental Assessment is required. This provides a systematic process for identifying, reporting and mitigating the environmental impacts of introducing market restrictions on single-use plastic items. The SEA is an iterative process and comprises the following distinct stages:

  • Screening - determining and agreeing whether a plan requires a SEA;
  • Scoping - establishing significant environmental topics, setting the environmental baseline, developing appropriate SEA objectives and consulting through a Scoping Report;
  • Environmental Assessment - assessing and recording the potential environmental impact of the plan and consulting on the likely significant effects on both and draft plan and Environmental Report;
  • Post Adoption Statement (PAS) - undertaking a public consultation exercise on the Environmental Report (to accompany the draft plan, programme or strategy) and developing the monitoring strategy to assess progress once adopted;
  • Monitoring - making the final decision on how or whether to proceed with the proposed activity, plan or strategy taking into account the comments resulting from the consultation and the contents of the Environmental Report; informing the public about that decision. Monitoring significant environmental effects of implementation and taking appropriate remedial action for unforeseen environmental effects are also part of the final monitoring stage.

1.3 Purpose of Environmental Report

This Environmental Report contains the SEA findings on the likely environmental implications arising from the introduction of statutory Scottish market restrictions on single-use and oxo-degradable plastic items, specifically with reference to those topic areas scoped in during the initial scoping phase.

The objectives of the environmental assessment concerning the introduction of market restrictions for single-use and oxo-degradable plastic items in Scotland are:

  • to ensure that the likely significant environmental effects arising from an introduction of market restrictions on specified single-use plastic items and oxo-degradable plastic items are identified, characterised and assessed;
  • to provide a framework for monitoring the potential significant effects arising from the restriction of specific single-use and oxo-degradable plastic items being placed on the Scottish market;
  • to give the statutory consultees, stakeholders and the wider public the opportunity to review and comment upon the environmental effects that market restrictions on single-use and oxo-degradable plastic products may have on them, their communities and their interests, and to encourage and support them to make responses detailing any such effects and how to mitigate these;
  • to inform Scottish Government's decisions on transposition of Article 5; and
  • to demonstrate that the introduction of Scottish market restrictions on single-use and oxo-degradable plastic items has been carried out in a manner deemed to be consistent with the requirements of the SEA Act.

This report has been produced for inclusion within the public consultation stage of the policy development process. It identifies, describes and evaluates the likely significant environmental effects resulting from a restriction on specified single-use and oxo-degradable plastic products being placed on the Scottish market. This report also identifies ways in which adverse effects can be avoided, managed or mitigated and how any positive effects can be enhanced. Economic impacts of the proposed market restrictions are explored in the Business Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) and equality aspects are assessed in the Equality Impact Assessment.

1.4 Environmental Report Structure

This Environmental Report conveys the findings of the SEA and is set out as follows:

  • Section 1 - Provides an introduction and background to the SUP Directive along with an overview of the SEA process.
  • Section 2 - Provides an overview of Article 5 of the SUP Directive and considers its implementation in the Scottish policy context.
  • Section 3 - Sets out the approach to the SEA, the process to date and scope of the assessment along with mitigating and monitoring proposals.
  • Section 4 - Provides an in-depth analysis of the Climatic Factors Topic area, its interdependencies, baseline characteristics and potential impacts.
  • Section 5 - Provides an in-depth analysis of the Material Assets Topic area, its interdependencies, baseline characteristics and potential impacts.
  • Section 6 - Provides an in-depth analysis of the Landscape and Visual Impacts Topic area, its interdependencies, baseline characteristics and potential impacts.
  • Section 7 - Provides an in-depth analysis of the Biodiversity Topic area, its interdependencies, baseline characteristics and potential impacts.
  • Section 8 - Sets out analysis on possible cumulative effects across all topic areas.
  • Section 9 - Provides conclusions and recommendations resulting from the assessment.
  • Section 10 - Sets out the proposed programme of works and the next steps in the transposition of SUP Directive Article 5 and the SEA process.

Abbreviations are provided in Appendix C.