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

Contents
EU single use plastics directive consultation: impact assessment - environmental report
3. The Approach to the Assessment

146 page PDF

1.9 MB

3. The Approach to the Assessment

This section outlines the approach to the assessment and then summarises the process undertaken to produce this SEA. The assessment has adopted a single tier approach to explore the potential for significant environmental effects within the SEA scoped-in topics.

Answering the assessment questions should enable key issues associated with the Scottish Government's proposal to introduce market restrictions on single-use plastic items to be explored in relation to the environmental topic areas and the relevant environmental objectives (e.g. contributions to emissions reduction targets). The assessment should be able to focus on the key issues and potential effects, ensuring these are framed in the context of current obligations.

3.1 The SEA Process to Date

SEA has a number of distinct stages: screening, scoping, the environmental assessment and the production of an Environmental Report, and the publication of a Post-Adoption Statement. At each stage, there is a requirement to consult with three statutory Consultation Authorities. These are Historic Environment Scotland (HES), NatureScot and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

The first stage of SEA leads to the production of a Scoping Report. This sets out the proposed scope and approach to assessing the potential environmental effects. The SEA Scoping Report for the introduction of Scottish market restrictions on single-use and oxo-degradable plastic items was issued for consultation for a four-week period concluding on 21 September 2020. Three responses to the consultation were received from the statutory consultees, which resulted in amendments to the proposed scope and approach to assessment (a schedule of consultation responses to the Scoping Report is contained at Appendix A).

The proposed introduction of market restrictions on specified single-use plastic products in Scotland has been subject to assessment using the amended approach. The findings of these assessments are presented in this SEA Environmental Report.

The introduction of market restrictions will be consulted on alongside the SEA Environmental Report. Following that consultation, the Scottish Government will review and analyse the responses received on this Environmental Report as well as other published impact assessments and the content of the consultation paper.

Upon the introduction of market restrictions on single-use plastic items, the Scottish Government will publish a Post Adoption Statement (PAS). This Statement will reflect on the findings of the SEA assessment and the views expressed in the consultation, and outline how the issues raised have been considered in the finalisation of the policy measure. Scottish Government will monitor the implementation and environmental effects resulting from the placing of restrictions on single-use plastic items on the Scottish market.

3.2 Scope of the Assessment (Overview, Scoping Consultation, Current Scope)

3.2.1 Overview

The aim of the SEA is to identify, describe and evaluate the likely significant environmental effects of introducing market restrictions on specified single-use plastic items and oxo-degradable plastic products.

The 2005 Act requires that the assessment includes information on the "likely significant effects on the environment, including on issues such as: biodiversity; population; human health; fauna; flora; soil; water; air; climatic factors; material assets; cultural heritage, including architectural and archaeological heritage; landscape; and the inter-relationship between the issues referred to".

Consideration has been given the relevant contextual information, together with the attributes of Article 5 of the SUP Directive, to define the scope of the assessment.

3.2.2 Scoping Consultation

Consultation with the statutory consultees was undertaken on the proposed scope of the SEA for a 35-day period concluding 25 September 2020. Each consultee was provided with the Introducing Market Restrictions on Single-Use Plastic Items in Scotland SEA Screening and Scoping Report. Consultation responses were received from all three statutory consultees.

The consultees all welcomed the commission of the SEA for the implementation of Article 5 of the SUP Directive and provided comments on:

  • the scope of the assessment and the corresponding topics to be included in the assessment;
  • the proposed methodological approach to the assessment;
  • suggested approaches to the consideration of alternative materials and alternative strategic approaches.

The full list of comments and response are provided as Appendix A.

3.2.3 Current Scope

In Table 3‑1, each of the 10 SEA topic areas is considered in isolation with a justification for whether each topic is scoped in, or scoped out, of this SEA provided. The overall rationale for scoping topics in, or out, has been derived from the Screening and Scoping Report and also reflects the consultation responses from the Consultative Authorities (as detailed in Appendix A).

Table 3‑1 SEA topics scoping and justification

SEA Topic Area: Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

Scoped in: Yes

Justification:

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 prosperity of the flora and fauna of Scotland. By restricting the supply 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 Environmental Assessment. This decision was welcomed and reiterated by statutory consultees.

SEA Topic Area: Population

Scoped in: No

Justification:

This environmental assessment is predicated on the assumption that introducing market restrictions on problematic single-use plastics items will result in a behavioural shift in consumption patterns this will have resultant positive effects in other assessment topics e.g. increased recycling as explored under material assets and reduced marine and terrestrial littering of in scope single-use plastic items as described under landscape and visual impacts. As the likely consequences of the anticipated shift in behaviour are considered under other topics, population as a topic area has been scoped out of this environmental assessment.

SEA Topic Area: Human Health

Scoped in: No

Justification:

Single-use items, either made of plastic or another alternative material, are not deemed to cause any harm to human health. Therefore, we do not expect the introduction of market restrictions on the proposed single-use plastic items to cause any significant effects on human health which has subsequently scoped out from this SEA.

SEA Topic Area: Soil

Scoped in: Yes

Justification:

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 microplastics produced by the breakdown of this material 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 proposed 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.

SEA Topic Area: Water

Scoped in: No

Justification:

The single-use plastic items in scope could contribute to the presence of microplastics in waterways. The potential hazards associated with microplastics come in three forms: physical particles, chemicals, and microbial pathogens as part of biofilms. According to a review study by the World Health Organisation,[35] chemicals and biofilms associated with microplastics in drinking-water pose a low concern for human health and hence water is scoped out. On the other hand, overarching consensus exists on the significant harm that could be caused due to physical plastic particles on marine and terrestrial species. This particular point has been covered under the biodiversity topic area; an approach that has been adopted in Strategic Environmental Assessment reports published in Scotland.

SEA Topic Area: Air

Scoped in: No

Justification:

The introduction of market restrictions on the proposed single-use plastic items do not require changes to the way waste is currently collected and managed. This means that waste collection services in terms of both type and frequency will not change due to these measures. Thus, we do not expect any significant effects on air quality which has subsequently scoped out from this SEA.

SEA Topic Area: Climatic Factors

Scoped in: Yes

Justification:

The key objective 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 proposed market restrictions will enable us to reduce greenhouse gases and tackle climate change. In consequence, climatic factors is scoped into this SEA.

SEA Topic Area: Material Assets

Scoped in: Yes

Justification:

The introduction of market restrictions on the proposed 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 significant impacts related to material assets which is scoped into this SEA.

SEA Topic Area: Cultural Heritage and the Historic Environment

Scoped in: No

Justification:

The introduction of market restrictions on the proposed single-use plastic items do not require additional infrastructure to be built or changes to the way waste is currently collected and managed. Therefore, we do not expect these measures to have significant effect on cultural heritage and the historic environment which has subsequently scoped out from this SEA.

SEA Topic Area: Landscape and Visual Impacts

Scoped in: Yes

Justification:

A main objective of the proposed market restrictions is to reduce single-use plastic pollution and litter in both terrestrial and marine environments of Scotland. As such the proposed 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 summary, pursuant to the consideration of the introduction of the proposed market restrictions and the associated likely significant environmental effects, the following topic areas have been scoped into this SEA: Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna, Climatic Factors, Material Assets, Soil and Landscape and Visual Impacts. Furthermore, the assessment has given consideration to other potential associated impacts on topic areas from the introduction of market restrictions which are summarised in the cumulative effects section (Section 8).

3.3 Context of the Assessment (Review of Plans and Programmes, Review of Environmental Baseline)

3.3.1 Review of Plans and Programmes

The 2005 Act requires a report containing "an outline of the contents, main objectives of the plan or programme and relationship with other relevant plans and programmes" (Schedule 3(1)) as well as "The environmental protection objectives, established at international (European) Community or Member State level, which are relevant to the plan or programme and the way those objectives and any environmental considerations have been taken into account during its preparation" (Schedule 3(5)).

A fundamental initial step in undertaking the SEA is to identify and review other relevant plans, programmes and strategies (PPS) which could influence the proposed plan. These may be PPS at an international/European, national, regional or local level, commensurate with the scope of introducing market restrictions on the specified single-use plastic items. The review aims to identify relationships between the implementation of Article 5 and the other PPS i.e. how the introduction of market restrictions could be affected by the aims, objectives and/or targets of other plans and programmes or how it could contribute to the achievement of the environmental and sustainability objectives of other PPS. Furthermore, the review of other PPS is also a useful source of information to support the completion of the environmental baseline analysis used to determine the key concerns relevant to introducing market restrictions.

For each of the topic areas scoped into this SEA (and the ensuing topic sections), the SEA provides a review and summary of PPS relevant to the introduction of market restrictions on single-use plastic items in Scotland.

3.3.2 Review of Environmental Baseline

The 2005 Act requires a report containing "The relevant aspects of the current state of the environment and the likely evolution thereof without implementation of the plan or programme" (Schedule 3(2)), "The environmental characteristics of areas likely to be significantly affected" (Schedule 3(3)), and "Any existing environmental problems which are relevant to the plan or programme including, in particular, those relating to any areas of a particular environmental importance, such as areas designated pursuant to Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds and Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna (as last amended by Council Directive 97/62/EC)" (Schedule 3(4)).

In each SEA topic section outlined in this assessment, an environmental baseline is provided of the existing receptors which will be impacted by the introduction of market restrictions on single-use and oxo-degradable plastics. The environmental baseline provides information against key metrics in relation to introducing market restrictions on single-use plastic items, such as weight, consumption and carbon impacts (see Table 3‑2)

Table 3‑2 Environmental baseline metric.
Number of single-use plastic items in scope 777 million
Weight of single-use plastic items 2,000 tonnes
Whole-life carbon impacts 10,550 tonnes CO2 eq.
Percentage of single-use plastic items littered in Scotland ~ 4.5%

The evolution of this environmental baseline is taken from the 'do nothing' option with the introduction of market restrictions on single-use plastic items being assessed against 'do nothing' as a baseline to determine the impact, positive or negative, that proposed market restrictions may provide.

3.4 Significant Environmental Effects

The assessment adopts a single tier approach to consider significant effects associated with the introduction of market restrictions in relation to each of the five SEA topics identified.

The assessment questions have therefore been developed to ensure that the SEA focuses on the significant environmental impacts relevant to each scoped in topic area.

The questions are presented in Table 3‑3 below.

Table 3‑3 SEA assessment questions

SEA Topic Area: Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

Question:

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?

SEA Topic Area: Climatic Factors

Question:

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

SEA Topic Area: Material Assets

Question:

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?

SEA Topic Area: Soil

Question:

Will the proposal contribute to reducing levels of soil contamination?

SEA Topic Area: Landscape and Visual Impacts

Question:

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

3.5 Undertaking the Assessment

The activities associated with implementing market restrictions on single-use plastic items have been analysed to identify and evaluate (where applicable) the likely significant effects that could arise - the following key considerations have been used to inform the assessment:

  • consultation with the consultative authorities (SEPA, NatureScot and Historic Environment Scotland) and other relevant stakeholders;
  • all relevant contextual information including a review of associated PPS, the regulatory framework and the environmental 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. whether it affects rural or urban communities);
  • the potential effect on vulnerable communities or sensitive habitats (e.g. terrestrial or marine);
  • 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 applicable).

Where the baseline data has been slight, uncertain or incomprehensive, the best available information together with professional assumptions and judgement has been utilised to assess the anticipated significant effects of introducing market restrictions.

3.6 Assessment of Secondary, Cumulative and Synergistic Effects

Schedule 3 (6) (e) of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 requires that the "secondary, cumulative and synergistic effects" of introducing market restrictions on single-use plastic items and oxo-degradable plastic products are assessed. Using a single tier approach, this assessment will deliver a summary of all the effects associated with establishing market restrictions on single-use plastic items together with the in-combination effects with other plans and programmes.

In terms of the overall assessment of the cumulative effects, it should be noted that accurately assessing the impact of market restrictions is challenging due to the uncertainties around the variety of alternatives to single-use plastic items in scope, the level of uptake by citizens, and the predicted shift from single-use plastic items to multi-use options.

3.7 Mitigation and Monitoring Proposals

The identification of effective mitigation measures is a fundamental element of the SEA process and, where significant adverse effects have been identified, appropriate mitigation measures have been proposed. The aim of such mitigation measures is to ensure that the replacement of single-use plastic items by non-plastic alternatives is carried out as efficiently as possible, and with greatest respect paid to the reuse and secondary applications of such products.

Putting appropriate measures in place, such as those specified within the relevant sections, may assist in optimising carbon savings and realising greater reductions in waste and litter generation. Mitigation and enhancement measures have been identified for each of the topic areas scoped into the assessment where possible. In some instances, mitigation measures are also proposed for minor negative effects, with corresponding enhancement measures also recommended where appropriate.

In order to ensure that the aims and objectives of placing market restrictions on certain single-use plastic items in Scotland are realised, proposals for the development of a monitoring protocol have been recommended in Section 10.2

It is also anticipated that further information on the development of monitoring protocols associated with the proposed market restrictions will be set out in the Post Adoption Statement.

3.8 Summary and Overview of Difficulties Encountered

This SEA has focussed on the overall assessment of the introduction of market restrictions on specified single-use plastic items and oxo-degradable plastic products in Scotland. The environmental assessment centres on comparing the anticipated effects, both positive and negative, against the 'do nothing' option which is retaining the current stance of no market restrictions.

The main difficulties encountered in undertaking this environmental assessment are summarised below:

  • Data limitations: The overall obtainability of inclusive and accurate baseline data for Scotland has been limited. Where the baseline data has been slight, uncertain or incomprehensive, the best available information together with professional assumptions and judgement has been utilised to assess the anticipated effects of introducing market restrictions.
  • Market research: Limited research was obtained relating to the quantity of products placed on the market in Scotland for each of the items in scope of this research. Estimates for Scotland were compiled through a market research assessment exercise which utilised a two-stage approach:

1. A review of EU, English, and Welsh data on single-use plastics and methodologies used; and

2. Stakeholder engagement to gather relevant stats and evidence on the amount of single-use plastic items sold in Scotland.

Although the market research assessment exercise highlighted a degree of uncertainty in existing methodologies and reported estimates, the bottom-up assessment approach, coupled with insights and feedback from stakeholders, has allowed us to conclude the best available estimates using all secondary data available.


Contact

Email: SUPD@gov.scot