Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures: November 2018

Minutes from the third meeting of Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures (EPECOM), held on 20 November 2018.

Attendees and apologies


  • Dame Sue Bruce (Chair)
  • Professor Kate Sang
  • Professor Theresa Marteau
  • Gemma Stenhouse
  • Professor Aileen McHarg
  • Mike Barry (via telecon)
  • Roger Kilburn
  • Iain Gulland, Zero Waste Scotland
  • Andy Dick, Zero Waste Scotland
  • Jack Barrie, Zero Waste Scotland
  • Chris Dodds, SG
  • Don McGillivary, SG
  • Janet McVea, SG
  • Anne Dagg, SG (Secretariat)
  • Gemma Laing, SG (Secretariat)


  • Professor Margaret Bates
  • Professor Liam Delaney
  • Terry A’Hearn
  • Colin MacBean

Items and actions

Agenda item 1: Apologies of last meeting and action log

1. Dame Sue Bruce welcomed the panel to its third meeting and thanked Professor Theresa Marteau for chairing the previous meeting on her behalf. Apologies were noted from Professor Margaret Bates, Professor Liam Delaney, Terry A’Hearn and Colin MacBean.  Apologies from the Cabinet Secretary were extended to the Panel, as she was unable to meet them prior to the meeting as planned. The Panel approved the minutes of the last meeting and the action log subject to a spelling correction being made to page 3, bullet point 1 and the Action Log being updated to record numbers 1 and  2 as Complete. Roger Kilburn provided the ’short summary of plastic types and their consumption’ paper which was distributed (Action 1 from log).

Agenda item 2: Key developments in Scotland, UK and EU - update and implications for the Panel’s work

2. The panel reviewed paper 3.1, which provided an overview of key developments since the previous meeting; and noted that it was a helpful report. Discussion took place around key announcements in the UK Autumn budget statement, including:

  • a proposed new tax on the manufacture and import of plastic packaging that contains less than 30% recycled content, to come into force in 2022 after a consultation process
  • £10 million funding for plastics research and development and £10 million to pioneer innovative approaches to boosting recycling and reducing litter; how this funding will be used and whether Scotland will benefit from consequentials was still be to clarified
  • UK Government’s conclusion that a ‘latte levy’ on all cups would not at this time be effective in encouraging widespread reuse

Action 1: SG to circulate further information on UK Chancellor’s statement regarding a levy on disposable coffee cups (DCCs).

3. The Panel noted Scottish Government’s participation in discussions regarding a UK-wide consultation on reform of the packaging producer responsibility system, likely to be published early 2019. The Panel agreed this major reform in packaging producer responsibility presents a key opportunity drive change, potentially requiring producers to meet full costs of recovery and recycling of packaging, thereby incentivising design and use of more recyclable material.

4. The Panel welcomed progress being made by the UK Plastics Pact, noting the recent 2018 UK Plastics Pact Summit (the first meeting of Pact members since the programme launched in April 2018); the publication of new WRAP research and guidance which address key issues around plastic packaging and the collecting and processing of post-consumer plastics; and publication of the draft UK Plastics Pact Roadmap, which sets out the key actions and intermediate milestones businesses and other members will need to achieve to deliver each target by 2025. Iain Gulland and Mike Barry highlighted how the Pact is bringing together a very broad coalition of interests beyond traditional business structures, and helping to galvanise action.

Action 2: SG to obtain more information on the UK Plastics Pact transition including timings.

5. Panel members noted that the European Parliament had voted to support draft plans to introduce a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics across the EU; and that other proposals include measures to deliver a reduction in other single-use plastic for food and drink containers where no alternative exists, alongside improvements in collection and recycling arrangements. The Panel acknowledged proposals were still to be approved by the European Council, noted the implications of EU exit for UK compliance with any future requirements; and that Scottish Ministers have committed to keep pace with EU developments post-EU Exit to maintain high environmental standards.

Agenda item 3: General principles – consideration of draft framework

6. The Panel considered Paper 3.2 which proposed high level, general principles that would:

  • provide a reference point to guide and inform the Expert Panel’s consideration of key issues and aid its assessment of potential options and recommendations
  • underpin the Expert Panel’s general way of working

7. The Panel welcomed the paper and endorsed the 5 core principles (Outcomes focused and evidence informed; Targeting; Proportionality; Transparency and accountability; Consistency, coherence and context) and the supporting narrative on these. The Panel requested one amend to final bullet on page 3 to acknowledge that use of some single use plastics cannot be prevented, the healthcare system. Subject to this amend, Panel members agreed that an accessible summary of the principles should be published, with infographics.

8. Given the importance of taking into account the different lifecycle impacts and use phase categorisations of specific products and the diversity of single use materials, the Panel requested further information on the life cycles and uses of various plastics to inform future discussions.

Action 3: Roger Kilburn to work with SG and SEPA/ZWS colleagues to prepare a table, showing different plastics, their uses and life cycles.

Action 4: Secretariat to arrange for design and publication of Panel Principles. 

9. The Panel discussed the opportunities procurement processes offer to drive sustainable behaviour and agreed there appears to be scope to further embed some key principles, such as waste hierarchy, life cycle impact and use phase categorisation, into existing approaches. Zero Waste Scotland officials noted it had previously trained over 750 procurement professionals; feedback suggested there were challenges in putting learning into practice and they had subsequently provided further mentoring over last 3 years which has been more successful. The Panel noted that, although it can be difficult to change organisational habits, the recent removal of disposable beverage cups from SG buildings and its wider programme of work with facilities colleagues shows that change is possible. The Panel acknowledged that wider implications or enablers of changes, for example infrastructure, is a critical consideration.

Action 5: Gemma Stenhouse to share more detail of procurement experience SG/ZWS.

Agenda item 4 and 5: Knowledge accounts - consideration of general approach and update on progress in relation to disposable cups and single use plastics

10. The Panel discussed:

  • Paper 3.3 which updated the Expert Panel on progress in collating available evidence on single-use plastics and disposable coffee cups; and invited views on the approach adopted to date
  • Paper 3.4 which provided Panel members with an update on progress in preparing a single-use plastics knowledge account to provide a high-level initial overview of: the baseline evidence available; the current landscape in relation to drivers of change, trends, policy interventions and their overall impacts on the use and disposal of single-use plastics; the future research areas for consideration in the form key gaps in the evidence based which need to be addressed

11. The Panel noted that the knowledge accounts (KAs) reflect the output of a rapid review of available evidence undertaken by analysts in Zero Waste Scotland and SG analysts; and attempt to capture all relevant and known information (both published and unpublished) to provide a detailed account. They are intended to be a living document which will be updated in the future as the Panel’s work progresses and to reflect key developments or emergent evidence. The accounts identify a number of key evidence gaps which should help inform future research.

12. The Panel endorsed the format of the KAs, as an informative yet accessible summary of key drivers and evidence regarding interventions; and agreed the approach should be taken for other single use items that the Panel will consider during its work programme, noting this did not preclude commissioning of additional research or analysis. It noted that the KA on single use plastics was work in progress and had been presented to provide an early sense of scope.

Agenda item 5: Disposable cups – discussion of knowledge account (KA): key messages and implications

13. The Panel reviewed Paper 3.5 which provided a summary of evidence on disposable hot drink cups, referred to as disposable coffee cups (DCCs), in order to guide and inform the Expert Panel’s consideration of the issue and aid its assessment of potential options and subsequent recommendations. The KA outlined the scale of DCC consumption and waste in Scotland, past and future drivers of this activity, the best available evidence on DCC prevention measures, and outstanding research gaps.

14.  The Panel noted the review’s key findings which were that:

  • there is strong evidence that a separate charge for DCCs is more effective at reducing DCC consumption, and increasing reusable cup use, than a reusable cup discount
  • significant changes in behaviour and business practices are required by coffee shop retailers and customers in order to realise a widespread shift from disposable cups to reusable cups
  • complementary measures to improve access to, and the convenience of, reusable cups are likely required to significantly shift consumer behaviour and reduce consumption and waste

15. The Panel agreed that the KA on disposable cups should be published in due course as an early output from the Panel, subject to redrafting Paragraph 26 to simplify wording.

16. In discussion, the Panel:

  • noted that a number of interventions have been implemented aimed at disrupting existing behaviours and nudging consumers to use reusable cups, focussed around reusable cup discounts, disposable cup charges and environmental messaging
  • acknowledged that discounts offered to customers bringing their own reusable cups, have had limited success in changing behaviours and reducing usage; but there appears to be evidence that a separate charge for single use disposable beverage cup is more effective at reducing consumption, and increasing reusable cup use, than a reusable cup discount. However, almost all known single use disposable beverage cup charge trials have been conducted at a localised scale
  • noted that although survey data appears to suggest that the Scottish public is supportive of a charge on cups, there are concerns that charges would significantly impact retailers’ revenue. ‘Cost neutral’ approaches or simply requiring retailers to separate out the price of a cup from the price of a beverage may help alleviate concerns
  • agreed that appropriate infrastructure needs to be available to encourage reuse and recycling; expressed interest in action taken by Edinburgh Airport to create bins for disposable coffee cups to aid collection and recycling and considered whether there is potential to roll out this approach in other ‘closed loop’ settings; and highlighted concerns that consumers were confused about recyclability of biodegradable and compostable products
  • acknowledged that key developments, such as reform of packaging producer responsibility, will impact in the main on recycling and recyclability of products; therefore, a key opportunity (and perceived gap) is to focus more attention on supporting sustainable consumption of single use disposable beverage cups
  • reflected that available evidence suggests that, given the range of issues and complex influences, and reflected that there does not currently appear to be a single solution that that would comprehensively prevent and address the environmental impact of single disposable cups in Scotland
  • concluded that a portfolio of integrated actions would appear to be required to transform social norms and consumer behaviours and transition sectors towards more sustainable business models
  • emphasised that, in line with Panel principles previously agreed, measures should span the full breadth of the waste hierarchy; however, prevention and promoting reuse  should be the core propositions and long term goals

Action 6: Secretariat to arrange for publication of KAs in due course,  subject to redrafting Paragraph 26 to simplify wording.

17. The Panel agreed that, although the knowledge account was extremely useful, the Panel concluded that it would be beneficial to commission and further independent systematic review of evidence of interventions to address single use, including a deeper dive into available literature on price based interventions.

Action 7: Secretariat to commission independent systematic review of evidence interventions on disposable beverage cups, including price based interventions. Dame Professor Theresa Marteau and Professor Liam Delaney to offer advice to secretariat on scope. 

18. The Panel agreed that influencing the behaviour of the top 3 retailers in the market could have a transformative impact on the whole marketplace which would in turn influence consumer behaviour.  The Panel discussed in more detail available options in relation to price based interventions, including relative advantages or limitations of discounts versus charges, cost-neutral approaches versus net price increases; and voluntary or mandatory approaches.  Panel acknowledged concerns about high street footfall and that retailers are not keen to add on any costs to the consumers and need lead in times for any changes to ensure sustainable business plans. The Panel also reflected on lessons from the carrier bag charge which was introduced after perceived failure of voluntary measures and which reduced single use carrier bag usage by 85% after the first year.

19. Zero Waste Scotland officials highlighted that in Germany a trial was launched in 2016 for reusable coffee cups. By mid-2018 it was clear that the scheme has been successful, however there are challenges to be addressed before it can be up-scaled. The Panel noted that a key challenge for smaller coffee shops in promoting reusable coffee cups is available space that they have in their location; and it would be helpful to further explore feasibility of reuse approaches in takeaway and sit in for these locations. It agreed it would be helpful for members to spend time in a variety of retail outlets to understand the logistics for these stores. The Panel discussed scope to roll out reuse and recycling approaches in specific ‘closed loop’ settings, such as railway stations.

20. The Panel agreed that fundamental shifts in social norms were required and would underpin success of broader measures. Lessons could be learned from other social marketing approaches e.g. health behaviour change and change management theory.

Action 8: Secretariat to liaise with the Collaborative Action Group within the UK Plastics Pact regarding its the review on bioplastics and request permission to share with the Panel.

Agenda item 6: Communication and engagement strategy – Paper 3.6

21. The Panel discussed Paper 3.6 which highlighted the intention to develop a high level communications and engagement strategy to support the Panel’s work; and proposed initial engagement objectives, key messages and priority activity. The Panel agreed proposed communication/engagement objectives which would be to:

  • increase awareness, understanding and support for the Expert Panel’s work
  • encourage participation by key stakeholders to inform the Panel’s considerations
  • identify, learn from and foster connections between the Panel and other relevant projects and key stakeholders from a range of sectors across Scotland
  • manage stakeholder expectations throughout the duration of the Expert Panel
  • in due course, ensure key stakeholders are aware of the Panel’s recommendations

22. Initial priorities will be to raise awareness of the Panel’s initial deliberations and outputs (e.g. publishing overarching principles and knowledge accounts, if agreed) and support further engagement on disposable cups and straws in early 2019. Further work will be undertaken to map key stakeholders, key messages and the various channels available. Further detail will be presented at the next Panel meeting.

Agenda item 7: forward plan

23. The Panel Chair suggested that the Panel meet again in March, to enable a further ‘deep dive’ on single use disposable beverage cups in order to reach initial consensus on the core propositions and menu of potential measure that have emerged from the Panel’ review of available evidence, ahead of wider engagement with stakeholders and subsequent formulation of recommendations for Scottish Ministers.

Action 9: Secretariat to draft an initial high level roadmap to capture the Panel’s emergent core propositions and the range of potential measures that have been identified in the Panel’s considerations so far.

24. Based on previous work plan, the Panel would then move on to discuss tyres and an initial paper that would allow the Panel to understand the impact they are having on the environment.

Action 10: Secretariat to prepare orientation paper on tyres.

25. The Panel requested papers to be issued at least a week prior to the meeting.

Next meeting

Friday 15 March 2019 from 10-15:00

Secretariat to Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures


EPECOM agenda November 2018
EPECOM annex a: general principles
EPECOM annex a: general principles infographic
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