Single-Use Disposable Cups Charge Advisory Group minutes: June 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 28 June 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • David Llewellyn (AVA)
  • Jason Harvie (Alliance)
  • Debbie Hosie (Assist FM)
  • Kirstin McEwan (2050 Climate Group)
  • Emily Robinson (Compass Scotland)
  • James Davidson (Disability Equality Scotland)
  • Jack Evans (Joseph Rowntree Organisation)
  • Catherine Gee (Keep Scotland Beautiful)
  • Neil Whittall (Paper Cup Recycling and Recovery Group)
  • Professor Liam Delaney (EPECOM (Expert Panel on Charges and Other Measures) economist)
  • Nicola Howie (Scotland Excel)
  • Phoebe Cochrane (Scottish Environment Link)
  • Ewan MacDonald-Russell (Scottish Retail Consortium)
  • Margaret Smith (Scottish Wholesale Association)
  • Graeme Paton (Trading Standards)
  • Leon Thompson (UK Hospitality)
  • Rachel Cook (Federation of Small Businesses)
  • Martin Kersh (Foodservice Packaging Association)
  • Brian Lawrie (Environmental Health)
  • Andrew Morrison (Food Standards Scotland)
  • Gayle Barclay (Edinburgh Airport)
  • Magdalena Golebiewska (EasyJet)
  • Jacqui Mitchell (Zero Waste Scotland)
  • Alison McKinnie (Zero Waste Scotland)
  • Sarah Archer (Zero Waste Scotland)
  • Shaun Taylor (Scottish Government)
  • Jonathan Waite (Scottish Government)
  • Janet McVea (Scottish Government)


  • Irene Taft (NHS National Services Scotland)
  • Paul Togneri (Scottish Beer & Pub Association)
  • Luke McGarty (Scottish Grocer’s Federation)
  • Colin Wilkinson (Scottish Licensed Trade Association)

Items and actions

Welcome and apologies

The chair introduced the meeting and welcomed members to the second meeting of the Advisory Group.

New group members

The chair welcomed Andrew Morrison (Food Standards Scotland), Brian Lawrie (Environmental Health), Gayle Barclay (Edinburgh Airport) who will also be representing other airport operators and Magdalena Golebiewska  (EasyJet) who will represent airlines.

The chair acknowledged that there have been some policy developments since the Group last met, one of which was the publication by Scottish Government of a consultation of proposals for a Circular Economy Bill. The consultation is open until the 22 August, and includes a proposal to take powers to introduce environmental charges on items that are environmentally harmful, with a focus on (in the first instance) introducing a charge on single-use disposable beverage cups.

The minutes from the previous meeting were accepted by the Group.

It was agreed that minutes are to be made available in a summarised version on the Scottish Government website, along with the final version of the terms of reference.

Actions arising from previous meeting

  • action point 1.1 - Feedback any relevant points from NHS Catering Services Expert Group at the next meeting (Irene Taft NHS National Services Scotland)

To be carried forward to future meetings in IT absence.

  • action point 1.2: Zero Waste Scotland to follow up on query regarding recycling options for alternative products after single-use plastics regulations come into effect

Discussions are on-going.

  • action point 1.3: Scottish Government to provide further clarity regarding the implementation of the planned exclusion from the Internal Market Act for the single-use plastic regulations

The statutory instrument to secure the exclusion has been laid before the UK Parliament and should come into force in the near future (12 August). The Statutory Instrument coming into force date is subject to UK Parliamentary procedures, including a House of Lords debate expected on 12 July, but Scottish Government will continue to make sure that they keep stakeholders updated on the progress of the legislation.

Recap, clarification of issues and additional information (paper 2.1)

The Chair introduced an opportunity for comments on paper 2.1.

In Paper 2.1 Scottish Government sought to address some questions and queries that Group members had flagged at the initial meeting and to acknowledge that for some of the topics further work is underway to gather the necessary data to make decisions, such as through the work of the Advisory Group.

A request was made for further reference material/raw data on the trial carried out at the University Hospital Crosshouse in Ayrshire particularly around the life cycle analysis figures. Zero Waste Scotland agreed to look into this and get back to the member separately. Scottish Government also invited Group members to share any relevant data on this or other related topics.

Action points

  • action point 2.1 Further reference material/raw data on the trial carried out at the University Hospital Crosshouse in Ayrshire and the cup used to be provided before the next meeting (Zero Waste Scotland)

Discussion (paper 2.2)

The rest of the meeting was allocated to detailed discussion on three separate topics - scope of the charge, exclusions to the charge and approach to the charge. The group was divided into three smaller break-out groups to enable more active discussion. 

Shaun Taylor (Scottish Government) acknowledged that there are a variety of single-use cups on the market in Scotland and the Scottish Government will use this Advisory Group process, and other stakeholder engagement, to decide upon the definition of a single-use disposable cup in relation to the charge being developed.

It was also highlighted that research is underway that will help the Scottish Government to understand the size of the market better, but as a starting point when plastic cups or cups containing plastic are discussed within the Advisory Group process it means any cup made of any mix of materials that includes any plastic including compostable plastics.

It was explained by Zero Waste Scotland that the current understanding is that most single-use cups will have some element of plastic in them in order to ensure they are waterproof. It is the responsibility of the manufacturers and suppliers of the cups to know what they are putting on the market so from a consumer point of view it will not be up to individuals to decide whether or not a cup is plastic. Scottish Government research underway was referred to, noting that this will deliver a better understanding of the status of the market currently within Scotland of what cups are plastic and non-plastic although the latter is expected to be a very small proportion of the overall market.

Scope (general)

The main talking points raised by the groups included:

Group 1

  • the policy objective needs to be clearly defined as this influences what is in scope, e.g. is it to reduce consumption, litter
  • definitions should be kept consistent with those used elsewhere in Scottish Government policy (e.g., plastic and single-use in single-use plastic regulations)
  • it was discussed that including specific materials (e.g. plastic) in or out of scope could be confusing and it would be easier to keep it simple
  • there was a discussion about recyclability and if recyclable cups should be out of scope.  The discussion touched upon how this aligns with policy objective (e.g., material switching not reducing consumption of single use) and technical vs actual recyclability (especially for airlines moving between regions)
  • it was raised that clear, inclusive communication is required to inform consumers why non- plastic cups would be included – consumer perception that non-plastic is OK
  • there should be consideration of venues where disabled people more likely to be impacted by a charge (e.g. medical settings)
  • members queried whether if the selling of packs of cups by supermarkets to consumers was within the scope of the charge, would the charge apply to each cup? This may make selling cups in these settings economically unviable

Group 2

  • it was highlighted that definitions used should be as clear as possible to provide clarity to businesses and consumers
  • similarly, the purpose and goals of the legislation should be explained as clearly as possible
  • the group also highlighted the need to understand the cost to businesses of implementing a charge before the minutiae of the scope is decided
  • it was raised that more evidence is needed on life cycle assessments to ensure there is a strong evidence base for making the case that re-usables are better for the environment than single-use cups
  • the impact of the cost-of-living crisis should be considered when considering the impact of a charge
  • consider unintended consequences such as food hygiene and safety

Group 3

  • group members sought clarity on the policy objective, e.g. why was there  a specific focus on plastics, would food served in cups be in-scope, and was the recyclability of different types of cups being assessed
  • the Group emphasised that the policy needs to be simple to understand from a consumer perspective
  • it will be important to clarify the definition of a reusable cup
  • the group also noted that there needs to be an assessment of the implications of scaling up the use of reusable cups, e.g. increased business costs, health and safety/ hygiene, although an Italian safe reuse criteria was highlighted as an example of how to overcome hygiene issue
  • possible unintended consequences of including all cups need to be examined, e.g. the increase use of cheaper, more environmental harmful single-use cups
  • business representatives noted a willingness to work in partnership to, for example, to incentivise customers to return cups, and increase the uptake of reusable cup schemes

Scope (exemptions)

The main talking points raised by the groups included:

Group 1

  • it was discussed that adding exemptions will add complexity and therefore the bar needs to be high. There will be a need for consistency and to create a level playing field
  • in relation to vending machines, it was raised that some are free (and cannot accept payment) and some do have a charge although this can be very low
  • yhe charge may be difficult to implement for the aviation industry, but airlines do have sustainability ambitions so would be willing to explore this further
  • concerns were noted over the practicalities and safety issues of reuse options within hospitality settings, and it was highlighted that these will require further exploring
  • furthermore, in relation to reusable cups at large events/venues, it was noted that there are challenges relating to washing, health and safety, and security. Examples do exist, and there is a willingness to consider with experts within members' organisations and explore this further
  • intersectional issues relating to disabled people often also being on lower incomes. It was raised that these need careful consideration and it highlighted that we should learn from lessons learnt through the straws exemption for the single-use plastic regulations

Group 2

  • clear guidance on what is exempt will be very important
  • it was highlighted by this group that keeping the rule as simple as possible would help businesses, consumers and regulators
  • it was discussed that the areas that should be considered for exemptions could include public sector, social care settings, disabilities, school meals and air passengers
  • it was raised that socio-economic concerns should be considered e.g. low income families and free school meals. These are complex areas, and more work is needed to understand how to frame these exemptions
  • it was raised that costs to businesses should be considered up front not at the end of the process
  • in addition, it was also raised that hygiene concerns should be considered
  • it was highlighted that public safety concerns should be considered, e.g. the ability to use a re-usable cup as a weapon; the impact on major events should be considered and the fact that this would be a new consideration for these organisations when planning their events

Group 3

  • some group members were of the opinion that empty cups and free drinks should be exempt
  • it was discussed that ‘closed environments’ such as healthcare settings and events/ festivals should be exempt, although there was discussion on the possible challenges of defining specific exempt sectors
  • the group highlighted that consumer and business sales impact need to be considered if the charge were to apply to events where people are likely to buy multiple drinks but unable to access/ use a reusable cup
  • it was raised that exemptions should be in place where cups are used for a welfare purpose (e.g., healthcare, charity), although it was also noted that simplification will be important and having too many exemptions may lead to confusion

Approach to the charge (including charging model and approach)

The main talking points raised by the groups included:

Group 1

  • There is a risk of businesses being open to criticism from customers if they are seen to be increasing prices. It should be made clear this is a Scottish Government policy decision
  • it was raised that clarity is required about why a charge is being introduced, e.g. it is about reducing consumption, and not about making a profit
  • there was some discussion about whether a charge or discount was more effective. It was highlighted by Scottish Government that there has been research carried out which found that a charge is more effective

Group 2

  • there was discussion on the need to understand the costs to businesses before the decision on how revenues are used is decided
  • it was raised that the system should be as simple as possible to minimise costs and complexity for users
  • it was highlighted by the group that Scottish Government will have to make it clear what the consumer is paying for
  • it was questioned whether revenues could be used for regenerating local areas
  • the group raised that there will be a need to consider the impact on cheap drinks e.g. vending machines

Group 3

  • it was noted that businesses are unlikely to be able to absorb the cost of the charge, and likely to favour an ‘additional cost’ charging model
  • the group highlighted that clarity would be required on the VAT status of a charge
  • some group members called for revenues raised to be used to support the implementation of reuse infrastructure, e.g. cover business costs of adopting a reuse model, business grant fund for small/ independent businesses

Next steps and closing remarks

The Chair summarised where the group have got to so far and advised on the next steps.

The Chair noted that there have been no firm decisions taken on the policy approach for implementing the charge and the role of the Group is to help inform the options and choices that need to be considered. The Group has already added value in offering their expertise to help work through these important issues. This is an on-going process, and we will build on the scope and approach in subsequent meetings.

It was agreed that the group would meet again on Wednesday 24 August and the chair proposed that the group re-addresses the implementation issues as well as the charging model as time in this discussion section was limited due to overrun. The chair also invited members to come forward with any other issues they feel would be beneficial to be discussed. In the meantime, there are some avenues that could benefit from more direct discussion and colleagues at Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland will follow up on these.

The Chair thanked members for their input.

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