Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures: May 2019

Minutes from the fifth meeting of Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures (EPECOM), held on 29 May 2019.

Attendees and apologies

Panel members

  • Prof. Dame Theresa Marteau, Chair for this meeting
  • Dame Sue Bruce, by telephone 
  • Professor Aileen McHarg     
  • Mike Barry, by telephone
  • Roger Kilburn
  • Gemma Stenhouse             
  • Liam Delaney, by telephone 


  • Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland
  • Don McGillivray, Scottish Government


  • Janet McVea, Scottish Government
  • Callum Blackburn, Zero Waste Scotland 
  • Jack Barrie, Zero Waste Scotland 
  • Anne Dagg, Scottish Government
  • Aster de Vries Lentsch, Scottish Government 

In attendance

  • Chris Dodds, SG  Environment and Rural Analysis


  • Professor Kate Sang
  • Professor Margaret Bates
  • Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive, SEPA

Items and actions

Agenda item 1 – welcome, apologies, minutes of last meeting and action log

Dame Professor Theresa Marteau chaired the meeting in place of Dame Sue Bruce and welcomed the panel to its fifth meeting. Apologies were noted from Professor Margaret Bates, Professor Kate Sang and Terry A’Hearn. The panel approved the minutes of the last meeting and noted the action log, providing Gemma with further clarification of her action point relating producing a thought piece on ways to embed sustainability in procurement procedures. 

Agenda item 2 – Chair’s scene setting

The Chair started by noting this meeting culminated the first year of work by the panel, and thanked the Secretariat for the high quality of the papers provided. The chair noted this was a critical meeting for the panel, and its aim would be to finalise a set of recommendations to put to Ministers on single-use disposable beverage cups by the end of June. 

During this meeting the panel reviewed through the five sets of recommendations. The recommendations approved at the meeting were handed back to the Secretariat to draw up a draft final report. This was to be sent to the panel before the 8 June for final comment. Panel members were to submit feedback by the 17 June, so a finalised report could be prepared and shared with the Cabinet Secretary before summer recess. 

Agenda item 3 – updates on key developments in Scotland, UK & EU, and case studies (papers 5.1-5.3)

The panel had received three case studies for information, to assist in shaping the recommendations:

  • Scottish Government cups ban (paper 5.1), which set out a case-study of the Scottish Government removal of single-use cups for hot drinks across its estate
  • cup rental schemes – draft (paper 5.2), which set out examples of reusable cup rental schemes and their potential for application in Scotland 
  • KSB Glasgow Cup Movement (paper 5.3), which provided an update on the work of the Glasgow Cup Movement run by Keep Scotland Beautiful and focuses on improving recycling and reuse of single-use disposable beverage cups

The Chair noted that these papers would not be discussed in detail as they had all informed paper 5.5 which was to be the main focus for this meeting, but invited comments from panel members. 

The panel noted that paper 5.1 highlighted an interesting finding that a decrease in coffee sales was offset by additional food beverages. Noting that this might be positive for retailers, the panel noted the risk of unintended consequences if people buy more food instead of drinks, which may not be positive for population health. 

ZWS officials provided a brief update on paper 5.2 by highlighting recent developments in Germany, where the Federal Environment Agency has recommended introducing a levy on disposable cups of 20 cents on cup and 10 cents on the lid, alongside a national reusable cup scheme and a compulsory 25 cents deposit on disposable cups to encourage return of the cup for recycling. The FEA was reportedly aiming for a 50% reduction target in 2-3 years.

Agenda item 4 – stakeholder engagement events: feedback (paper 5.4)

The Chair noted that this paper and agenda item provide the opportunity for the full panel to hear from panel members who attended recent engagement events. Starting with the industry and NGO event held on the 2 May, panel members highlighted that there had been good in-depth discussion and acknowledged that some NGO attendees felt that there could have been a more equal presence between NGO and industry representatives. It was recognised that there was a broad range of views, and some strong divergence on a few issues. 

Other points highlighted in the discussion by the panel were the importance, from a business perspective, for a joined up approach between the different policy developments taking place across the UK, whilst not precluding Scottish leadership. Panel members remarked there was also a need to differentiate between big businesses and small businesses, as many of the impacts would be different for SMEs.

Panel members who had been present at the events noted that while the energy in the room and willingness to engage had been very positive, industry representatives appeared to place a greater emphasis on recycling solutions rather than some of the reuse and prevention oriented measures. The panel felt that this would need to be addressed with further engagement with the sector going forward, as well as by setting out recommendations, although high-level at this points, in as much detail and clarity as possible. Here again the importance of timescales was noted by panel members, taking account of timescales of broader UK wide developments such as extended producers responsibility for packaging. The panel restated its support for a multi-pronged, joined up approach to tackle this complex issue. 

The panel were invited to note contributions submitted after the event, by the PCRRG, FPA and campaign group Have you got the Bottle, demonstrating the appetite for ongoing engagement. It was also noted that the study cited in the PCRRG report had been included in the independent literature review, but that Professor Poortinga had felt the methodology was not robust enough to drive key findings of the overall report. 

In relation to the youth engagement event, panel members noted how useful it was to have some younger people in attendance. There was clear energy and urgency in the room from young people, and there appeared to be more buy-in for reduction strategies such as bans or reuse schemes. Here too the multi-pronged approach was recognised to be necessary and it was noted that research and evidence collection should involve young people and disabled people in decision making. It was noted that in light of the climate emergency there had been some scepticism among participants about the impact that action on beverage cups would have in isolation. 

The panel concluded that the stakeholder events had been productive and useful in helping to frame and inform the panel’s considerations in informing their direction of travel but also underlined the importance of further, substantive engagement and consultation by Scottish Government on any measures that are taken forward following the panel’s recommendations to ensure that stakeholder views and potential equalities and business impacts are thoroughly considered and thanked.

Agenda item 5 – summary of draft recommendations for discussion and sign-off (paper 5.5)

The panel noted that the summary of emerging recommendations that were discussed at length at the last meeting have been shared at the two stakeholder sessions. The feedback from the sessions has been considered by Secretariat and some of the panel’s draft recommendations have been revised or updated to take account of discussion at the events. The Chair asked the panel to review the refreshed recommendations set out in paper 5.5, considering suggested updates that reflect the learning from the stakeholder engagements; identify further additions or amendments; and to approve the final recommendations, following discussion.

Proposition 1 – culture of sustainability

The Chair noted that it is clear from the literature review that social marketing is an important intervention to accompany and support all other recommendations. Social marketing has to be aligned with other activities, and the panel noted that to introduce charges or other interventions without any communications would not be advantageous. The panel also noted that the wording of the social marketing measures should insert positive messaging as well as negative, i.e. ‘promoting sustainable consumption’.

The panel also considered that the measure relating to securing a better understanding of drivers of consumer behaviours would sit more comfortably under proposition 5 on evidence and evaluation, and would need to be part of any effective design and delivery of social marketing measures anyway. The panel agreed there was no need to recommend it separately under proposition 1. 

The panel spent some time debating targets. The panel noted the example from Germany, where a 50% reduction target in the next three years was proposed. The panel decided to set an ambition of ultimately eliminating the use of single-use disposable beverage cups altogether, while noting that it would be for Scottish Ministers to consult and decide on a target and that they would welcome and encourage an ambitious commitment. They also noted that as the ambition sets out what all the recommendations ultimately aim to achieve, it would be better suited as part of an opening statement than under proposition one, whilst any reference to targets would be best placed under prevention so as to be more closely tied to the price-based interventions aimed at consumption reduction. 

The panel approved proposition 1, subject to an ambition of a sustainable model of consumption and majority of beverages being sold in reusable cups being added to the opening statement.

The panel approved the following measures to be recommended under proposition 1:

  • using social marketing measures to make sustainable consumption socially unacceptable, subject to the addition of ‘promoting sustainable consumption’ or similar wording  
  • ‘the Scottish Government should consider introducing an ambitious national consumption reduction ambition or target for single-use disposable cups’ to be moved to prevention

Proposition 2 – prevention

The panel agreed there is clear evidence a charge is an effective way to change behaviour, noting that the literature review highlighted that a minimum level of 20p would be needed to change behaviour for 49% of the population. The panel also noted the need to clarify that a lid is generally included in the definition of a cup, unlike in the German case study where lids are charged separately for 10p.

Panel members recognised that retail is facing a challenging environment, and that there are a lot of changes afoot in the policy landscape for businesses across Scotland and the UK. To address this, the panel discussed options to introduce any charge in a cost-neutral manner, or with a phased increase approach. It was ultimately felt that the design and implementation of the charge would be best delivered by Scottish Ministers after further consultation, while noting that the recommended minimum price of 20-25p should be seen as a starting point and could be reviewed over time to continue encouraging behaviour change.

The panel agreed that a mandatory, national requirement would level the playing field for retailers, and that this measure should happen in tandem with encouraging the voluntary adoption of a charge in the short term. The panel noted that the timescales for introducing any charge would need to carefully considered. 

The panel approved proposition 2.

The panel approved the following measures to be recommended under proposition 2: 

  • the introduction of a national, mandatory requirement to sell beverages and disposable cups separately, including a minimum price for disposable cups (including the lid) of between 20-25p. 
  • encouraging retailers and businesses in the short term, while suitable legislative vehicles are identified for mandatory requirements, to put in place voluntary separate pricing to promote behaviour change.
  • the Scottish Government should consider introducing an ambitious national consumption reduction ambition or target for single-use disposable cups (to be added in from proposition 1)
  • banning sale of non-recyclable expanded polystyrene/PVC beverage cups, in line with EU SUP Directive ambitions by 2021.  

Proposition 3 - promoting reuse

Panel members considered the refreshed proposition and remarked that it would be necessary to clarify what is meant by ‘closed loop’, as this may be unclear to some. The panel were keen to see the developments of trials for reuse cups, to fully understand how these would work especially for retailers including  in relation to branding issues (which is a key aspect of disposable cups). The panel also agreed to recommend that bans on single-use disposable beverage cups should be rolled out in any appropriate  buildings, events, organisations or areas, most notably closed loop and public sector settings. Finally, the panel noted that it would like language in this section to be firmed up and be more ambitious.

The panel approved proposition 3. 

The panel approved the following measures to be recommended under proposition 3, subject to clarifying what is meant by ‘closed loop’ and firming up language to be more ambitious:    

  • developing the opportunities for reusable cup rental or ‘mugshare’ schemes to be available at national or local level, by encouraging trials within Scotland and encouraging schemes for all types of disposable cups not limiting this intervention to ‘coffee cups’ 
  • encouraging more/better promotion of reuse options by retailers at point of sale
  • promoting the roll-out of bans on the use of single-use disposable beverage cups within buildings, events, organisations or areas where that is feasible, most notably closed loop and public sector settings, through sharing best practice guidance to demonstrate the viability of the approach and encourage more trials, and using public sector leadership to encourage adoption of a closed loop model more broadly    

Proposition 4 - recycling

The panel noted that the language in the draft is too vague, and they would like to see the wording changed to be more robust and reflect that recycling single-use disposable cups should become the last resort, when reuse is not (yet) possible. The panel also noted that, as the focus of its recommendations should be about prevention, this proposition and measures should be condensed into a single measure.

The panel approved proposition 4, subject to condensing the section to reflect the primary importance of prevention and reuse.

The panel approved the following measure to be recommended under proposition 4: 

Promoting the uptake of recycling where reuse is not yet possible by:

  • innovation in disposable cup design to move to a position where they are more readily and widely recycled through existing collection infrastructure  
  • ensuring clearer consumer messaging and labelling, to avoid confusion about recyclability of cup, especially those made of biodegradable or compostable materials and signal desired behaviour
  • building on future implementation of changes to packaging producer responsibility schemes to support further improvements in recyclability of cups and collection arrangements, including on the go recycling infrastructure 

Proposition 5 - evidence and analysis

The panel approved proposition 5.

The panel approved the following measures to be recommended under proposition 5:

  • developing, synthesising and learning from evidence from Scotland and more widely by Scottish Government, Zero Waste Scotland, and academic institutes to inform policy development and promote behaviour change, especially expanding on the drivers of responsible consumption
  • embedding robust analysis and evaluation of tests of change within a Scottish context, publish/share the lessons learned and encouraging sharing knowledge from the private sector to enable and support change

Action 1: Panel Secretariat to make the requested changes to the recommendations and draft a final report, to be circulated to the panel for comment by the 10th of June

Action 2: Panel to return comments on the draft report to secretariat by 17 June

Action 3: Secretariat to finalise report and circulate for sign-off, before submitting to the Cabinet Secretary on the 25 June

Action 4: Chair to meet with Cabinet Secretary to discuss findings of the report and next steps.

Agenda item 7 – next steps (paper 5.6 & 5.7)

The panel explored what the focus would be for their meetings after the summer, now that their work on single-use disposable beverage cups would be concluded. Paper 5.6, prepared by the Secretariat, highlighted key areas where the expert panel may want to focus future discussions and on what topic area they would want to provide recommendations to the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment. Taking the EU SUP as a starting point, the paper set out straws, stirrers, plastic cutlery and plates as potential priority items. 

The panel questioned whether there were items not included in the SUP that could be the focus of the panel’s work. The Secretariat highlighted that instead of focussing on an item by item approach, the panel could look at developing a toolkit or range of policy measures to help policy makers take a holistic approach to problematic items. This links back to a suggestion raised at the panel’s second meeting, and could not only be applied to single-use plastics, but also have scope to challenge the prevalence of single-use items more generally.

The panel requested further material to inform their decision on where to go next, asking the secretariat to prepare a paper on a hierarchy of single-use plastics and their environmental impacts, highlighting where the main issues are with each. 

Action 5: Secretariat to prepare single-use plastics hierarchy paper, including further development of potential options for a toolkit. 

Agenda Item 8 – AOB & date of next meetings

Roger Kilburn indicated that he is leaving his current employment and may not be able to continue on the panel in his new role, but will confirm in due course. The chair thanked Roger for his valuable contribution to the work of the panel and expressed hopes that Roger will be able to continue to be part of the panel. 

Date of next meeting(s):

  • Monday 2 September 2019
  • Thursday 14 November 2019 




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