Market restrictions on single-use plastic items: consultation analysis

An analysis report summarising and describing the responses to the public consultation on introducing market restrictions on single-use plastic items in Scotland.

1 Introduction

1.1 The Scottish Government is proposing to introduce market restrictions – effectively a ban – on single-use plastic items and all oxo-degradable products in Scotland. A consultation seeking views on the items to be covered by the restrictions, and how the restrictions might be implemented was carried out between 12 October 2020 and 4 January 2021. This report presents findings from an analysis of responses to that consultation.

Policy context

1.2 Reducing the use of single-use plastics and dealing with plastic waste is a major environmental concern. Plastics have a significant place in our daily lives and are used for many beneficial purposes. However, the production of plastic has a negative impact on carbon emission and the use of natural resources, and the plastic items produced take hundreds of years to break down and decompose, leading to a serious problem of waste which harms the environment and endangers the diversity of the natural world.

1.3 The Scottish Government is committed to reducing the use of single-use plastic and tackling plastic waste. As part of a programme of work to address Scotland's throwaway culture and introduce a circular economy, the Scottish Government has pursued a range of polices and initiatives to (i) reduce waste, (ii) encourage reuse and repair, and (iii) improve recycling rates. Tackling the problem of plastic pollution has been a significant strand in this work. So far, the Scottish Government has legislated to ban the sale of cosmetics containing plastic microbeads, introduced charges for plastic carrier bags, banned the use of plastic-stemmed cotton buds, and committed to introducing a deposit return scheme for drink containers.

1.4 Further to the work already undertaken, the Scottish Government's Programme for Government 2020–2021 made a commitment to consult about banning a number of problematic plastic items identified in the EU's Single-Use Plastics Directive.[4]The items covered by the Directive are those most commonly found littered on European beaches: single-use plastic cutlery, plates, straws, beverage stirrers and balloon sticks; food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene; and all oxo-degradable products.[5]

1.5 The Scottish Government has stated its intention to introduce legislation on this issue during 2021. The proposed consultation was designed to gather views to inform the development of legislation and accompanying regulations and ensure that people had an opportunity to comment on what were recognised to be wide ranging changes.

The consultation

1.6 The consultation paper, Tackling Scotland's Throwaway Culture: Introducing Market Restrictions on Problematic Single-Use Plastic Items in Scotland, set out the case for addressing Scotland's 'throwaway culture', and the role that a ban on single-use plastics could play in that.[6] It highlighted how a ban on the items covered by the EU Directive would be an important step in addressing the environmental damage caused by single-use plastics, and would also allow Scotland to stay in line with other European countries on this issue.

1.7 The consultation paper was accompanied by five impact assessments: an environmental impact assessment, a business and regulatory impact assessment, an equalities impact assessment, a 'fairer Scotland duty' impact assessment, and an island communities impact assessment.

1.8 The consultation sought views on a number of key issues that needed to be considered in developing the required legislation and associated regulations. There were eight consultation questions, some involving multiple parts, comprising a mix of open and closed questions. Questions focused on the following issues:

  • The items to be initially covered by the proposed market restrictions, and whether the restrictions should apply to both commercial and non-commercial supply, and to manufacturing (Question 1)
  • The current availability of oxo-degradable products on the Scottish market (Question 2)
  • Exemptions, and access to essential items for disabled people (Questions 3 and 4)
  • Possible future extension of market restrictions to additional items (Question 5)
  • Environmental, economic, and social impacts of the proposals (Question 6)[7]
  • Taking account of the COVID-19 pandemic (Question 7)
  • Any other comments (Question 8).

1.9 It should be noted that one question asking for views on restricting the supply of single-use plastic items in a non-commercial capacity appeared in the downloadable consultation documents (Question 1c in the downloadable consultation paper and consultation questionnaire) but was omitted from the online response form. Additionally, there were differences in the wording and formatting of the questions in the online and offline questionnaires, and this report reflects that used in the online questionnaire.

1.10 The consultation opened on 12 October 2020 and closed on 4 January 2021. The consultation paper (and the related impact assessments) could be accessed via the Scottish Government's online consultation hub. Respondents could complete an online consultation questionnaire or submit an offline response by email or post.

1.11 As part of the consultation process, a number of online engagement events were organised by Zero Waste Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government. There were eight sector-specific events held with environmental non-government organisations (2), product distributors (1), manufacturers (1), NHS organisations (1), a young person's representative body (1), and other groups who use single-use plastics (2). Altogether, 48 individuals from 32 organisations attended these events. A further seven events were held with representatives of individual stakeholder organisations in different sectors (the food and drink manufacturing and retail sectors, the health sector, the hospitality sector, etc.).

About the analysis

1.12 This report is based on a robust and systematic analysis of the responses to the consultation.

1.13 Frequency analysis was undertaken in relation to all the closed questions and the findings are shown in tables in this report.

1.14 Qualitative analysis was undertaken to identify the main themes and the full range of views submitted in response to each question or group of questions, and to explore areas of agreement and disagreement in views between different groups of respondents.

1.15 Not all respondents answered every question, and some made comments in relation to a question without ticking a response at the relevant closed question. If a respondent's reply to the tick-box question was clearly stated in their written comments, the response to the tick-box question was imputed. The tables throughout this report include such imputed responses.

1.16 As with all consultations it is important to bear in mind that the views of those who have responded are not representative of the views of the wider population. Individuals (and organisations) who have a keen interest in a topic – and the capacity to respond – are more likely to participate in a consultation than those who do not. This self-selection means that the views of consultation participants cannot be generalised to the wider population.

1.17 For this reason, the approach to consultation analysis is primarily qualitative in nature. Its main purpose is notto identify how many people held particular views, but rather to understand the full range of views expressed.

1.18 Finally, it is important to note that some of the responses to this consultation (especially those from organisations) contained technical information and references to other published and unpublished material. It is not possible in a report such as this to fully reflect the level of detail included in these submissions.

The report

1.19 The remainder of this report is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 2 presents information on the respondents to the consultation and the responses submitted.
  • Chapters 3 to 8 present the results of the analysis of the responses to the consultation questions.

1.20 Annexes to the report comprise a full list of organisational respondents (Annex 1), the response rates for individual questions (Annex 2), information about the campaign organised by Friends of the Earth Scotland to encourage responses to the consultation (Annex 3), and a detailed breakdown of responses to Question 1 (Annex 4).



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