Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures: September 2018
- Environment and Forestry Directorate
- Part of
- Environment and climate change
Minutes from the second meeting of Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures (EPECOM), held on 10 September 2018.
Attendees and apologies
- Dame Professor Theresa Marteau (Acting Chair)
- Professor Kate Sang
- Professor Margaret Bates
- Iain Gulland
- Terry A’Hearn
- Gemma Stenhouse
- Professor Aileen McHarg
- Mike Barry (via telecon)
- Andy Dick, Zero Waste Scotland
- Don McGillivary, SG
- Colin MacBean, SG
- Janet McVea, SG
- Lucinda Fass, SG (Secretariat)
- Dame Sue Bruce
- Professor Liam Delaney
- Roger Kilburn
Items and actions
Agenda item 1: Apologies, minutes of last meeting and action log
1. Dame Professor Theresa Marteau chaired the meeting in place of Dame Sue Bruce and welcomed the panel to its second meeting. Apologies were noted from Dame Sue Bruce, Professor Liam Delaney and Roger Kilburn. The panel approved the minutes of the last meeting and the action log, subject to combining actions 2 and 3 which relate to the same item.
Agenda item 2: Orientation paper - single use plastics
2. The panel considered paper 2.1 which provided an overview of the current landscape of policy initiatives related to the use and disposal of single-use plastics; and outlined some of the opportunities for Scotland to take action to address this topic.
3. The panel noted the wide range of work being taken forward at a number of levels to tackle single use plastics and agreed it would be important for the panel to take account of
- emerging developments at EU level (including the European Commission’s recently published proposal for a directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment which proposes action on 10 single-use plastics)
- UK measures (including the outcome of the recent HM Treasury consultation exploring how changes to the tax system or charges could be used to tackle single-use plastics)
- the wide array of voluntary actions taking place on single-use plastics, including, for example, the UK Plastics Pact (on which the Panel requested more information)
Action 1: Secretariat to circulate web link to Plastics Pact UK to the Panel
4. The panel discussed the issues raised and the course of actions listed at the end of the paper. Key points raised in discussion included:
- the importance of avoiding a piecemeal product-by-product approach, which could exhaust public or stakeholder support and take up valuable time for the Expert Panel
- to that end, the Panel agreed it would be useful to develop a general principles approach for dealing with all single-use plastics; such principles could help frame and inform the Panel’s considerations and potential recommendations and potentially inform Scotland’s consideration of wider developments at EU and UK level. Though the panel were in favour of a general principles approach, it also recognised the limitations of this, given the diversity of items and materials
- calls for evidence should be issued with careful consideration and only once the Panel is clearer about what evidence already exists and what our knowledge or evidence gaps are - in general and in relation to specific items. The panel noted that the evidence base regarding some single-use items (disposable cups for example) is clearer or more comprehensive than for other items and agreed that future call(s) for evidence will need to reflect this varying knowledge base
5. The panel briefly discussed the potential scope and structure of future call(s) for evidence, noting initial proposals set out in paper 2.1, and asked secretariat to develop outline proposals for more detailed discussion at its next meeting. Further thought would be given to whether the Panel issues a combined call for evidence covering several items or issues a series of item-specific calls for evidence once clearer on what evidence already exists and key knowledge gaps.
Action 2: SG, Zero Waste Scotland and SEPA to prepare a brief (one page) high level set of draft principles for discussion at the Panel’s next meeting
Agenda item 3: Straws, cutlery and plates – options for intervention
6. The panel considered paper 2.2 which provided an overview of charging or other measures that could be applied to the product category of straws, cutlery and plates; and discussed the course of actions listed at the end of the paper. The following points were raised in discussion:
- it was noted that straws, cutlery and plates/trays are a very significant source of marine litter in Scotland. The public view is that banning these items is easy, but there are complexities with these products, especially cutlery (due to public safety) and straws (for equality reasons). There is not yet sufficient evidence that the alternatives that are already on the market (e.g. starch based products, paper products, edible products, bamboo products) are being effectively recycled or composted
- there are several potential measures to tackle these items – for example, a ban, a partial ban, a voluntary approach, taxes / minimum charges and licensing applications. In relation to straws, concerns were raised that most of these options may have dis-benefits for people with disabilities, lending weight for calls for a longer term approach to develop a ‘better’ straw which can be easily recycled but meets the needs of disabled people. The Panel agreed that people with disabilities and groups that represent them are a rich resource from which to gather evidence on straws, and also lessons in behaviour change/ adaptability
- the Panel commented that although the secretariat had followed the EU categories for straws, cutlery and plates, there was a clear difference in approach being suggested for all 3 products. There was a preference to progress evidence for straws and cutlery, whilst there was less understanding of what actions on plates might look like. The Panel agreed that these issues could be explored as part of a wider call for evidence suggested under Paper 2.1 above
- the panel saw opportunities for pilots and innovation trialling in the public sector in Scotland in order to inform recommendations on any future action or measures
7. The Panel asked Secretariat to consider the potential scope of a future call for evidence on Straws, Cutlery and Plates, taking account of available evidence/identified knowledge gaps.
Action 3: SG to prepare an initial outline proposal regarding the potential scope and structure of future Call(s) for Evidence for discussion at the panel’s next meeting, taking account of available evidence/key knowledge gaps.
Agenda item 4: Disposable cups
8. The panel discussed paper 2.3 on disposable coffee cups (DCCs) which outlined the current landscape of policy initiatives related to the use and disposal of single-use coffee cups and outlined measures that could be applied to this product category.
9. The Panel noted the current impact of DCCs (with approximately 200 million DCCs estimated to be entering the waste stream in Scotland each year, with 4kt of DCC waste). It also noted that there are several options for intervention that could be considered including mandatory charges to reduce usage of disposable cups; inclusion of DCCs or recyclable cups in Scotland’s forthcoming deposit return scheme; other measures to help reduce reliance on single use cups and increase opportunities for recycling (for example, ‘Cup Club’ was mentioned as a reusable coffee cup scheme already running in England); and encouraging voluntary approaches. The following points were noted or raised in discussion:
- the growing public awareness of the environmental impact of disposable cups creates a ‘window of opportunity’ for policy action on this issue
- the Panel needs to be cognisant of any developments at EU and UK level
- the recycling infrastructure for disposable coffee cups is currently weak and the materials recovered are not valuable; it is important that measures (such as charges) are not considered in isolation and that actions required across the waste hierarchy (i.e. prevention, reuse, recycling) are assessed
- in relation to levies or charges, to date available research suggests that a charge is more effective than discounts/incentive in driving behaviour change. It also noted the recent HM Treasury consultation on this issue which highlighted divergence of views regarding charges, notably the optimal level of any charge and the wider impact that charges may have for viability of businesses. The Panel agreed that it should take account of lessons learned from previous approaches to introducing the plastic bag charge when considering this issue
- options for action are already being tested in Scottish setting, with Zero Waste Scotland and NHS Scotland carrying out projects looking at cup charges and single-polymer recycling
10. The Panel’s view was that a general call for evidence on disposable cups would not move forward the debate very much at this juncture. Instead, the completion of an ‘Evidence Account’ that formalises all of the available evidence on this topic into one place, produced by professional researchers and involving independent academics if possible, was suggested. The Panel asked the Secretariat to consider options for collation of evidence accounts, and to complete an evidence account on disposable cups by the next meeting in November.
Action 4: Secretariat to consider options for collation of evidence accounts, and to complete an evidence account on disposable cups by the next meeting in November.
Agenda item 5: Forward plan and next steps
11. The Panel considered Paper 2.4 which outlined the wider opportunity for the expert panel to consider environmental charges and other measures for a range of products and materials. The paper had been prepared in response to the Panel’s previous request for support with prioritisation and development of a work programme.
12. The Panel noted that following the Panel’s initial meeting Zero Waste Scotland and SEPA officials had reflected further on priorities for extended producer responsibility; and that the products that had been identified as the ones that could contribute most to environmental improvement and economic and/or social benefits and recommended for Extended Producer Responsibility in Scotland and Expert Panel focus, in priority order were:
- clothing and textiles
13. The Panel agreed that it will continue to prioritise consideration of single use plastics and certain single-use items (notably disposable coffee cups and straws given Ministerial direction); but accepted that there is significant opportunity and scope to consider a wider package of measures covering other products/materials in due course, given the very significant environmental impact and potential economic and social benefits to be gained.
14. The Panel approved, in principle, the forward work programme set out in Paper 2.4 (restated below) but noted that the Panel Chair’s view should be sought and that any work programme should be kept under regular review:
|Expert panel meeting||Proposed discussion topic|
|Meeting 3||Follow up discussion on single-use plastics, with focus on disposable cups and straws|
|Meeting 4||Follow up discussion on single-use plastics, with focus on disposable cups and straws. Initial discussion on Tyres|
|Meeting 5||Initial discussion on mattresses and furniture|
|Meeting 6||Follow up discussion on single-use plastics and tyres|
|Meeting 7||Follow up discussion on mattresses and furniture|
|Meeting 8||Final discussion on all topics, outline areas for further work, including on those priority materials/products not covered|
15. The Panel noted that there is already some progress towards producer responsibility schemes or industry action for some of these products/materials, as set out in Paper 2.4, as well as UK level discussion on options for reform of certain schemes; and that it will be important to take account of - and where appropriate offer a view on - these developments in future Panel discussions.
16. The Panel agreed that it was important to frame issues in terms of potential opportunities, not just challenges or constraints if action is to be galvanised at scale across society and industry. Terry A’Hearn agreed to draft a discussion paper on a set of innovation drivers that can be considered alongside or as a counter balance to regulatory measures like bans and charges.
Action 5: T A’Hearn to provide paper on innovation drivers.
17. The Panel also reflected briefly on the value or otherwise of targets in driving innovation and design, and requested a list of existing targets on recycling / bans already in place. SG officials advised the panel that ministers would be pleased to hear its advice on targets.
Action 6: SG to provide list of existing targets
Summary of action points from Expert Panel Meeting on 10 September 2018:
- Secretariat to circulate web link to Plastics Pact UK to the Panel
- SG, Zero Waste Scotland and SEPA to prepare a brief (one page) high level set of draft principles for discussion at the Panel’s next meeting
- SG to prepare an initial outline proposal regarding the potential scope and structure of future Call(s) for Evidence for discussion at the panel’s next meeting, taking account of available evidence/key knowledge gaps
- Secretariat to consider options for collation of evidence accounts, and to complete an evidence account on disposable cups by the next meeting in November
- T A’Hearn to provide paper on innovation drivers
- SG to provide list of existing targets
Date of next meeting
20 November 2018
Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures
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