Single-use disposable cups charge advisory group minutes: October 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 4 October 2022.

Attendees and apologies

  • David Llewellyn (AVA)
  • Jason Harvie (Alliance)
  • Irene Taft (NHS National Services Scotland)
  • Neil Whittall (Paper Cup Recycling and Recovery Group)
  • Professor Liam Delaney (EPECOM economist)
  • Paul Togneri (Scottish Beer and Pub Association)
  • Phoebe Cochrane (Scottish Environment Link)
  • Jamie Mackie (Scottish Grocer’s Federation)
  • Ewan MacDonald-Russell (Scottish Retail Consortium)
  • Margaret Smith (Scottish Wholesale Association)
  • Graeme Paton (Trading Standards)
  • Leon Thompson (UK Hospitality)
  • Stacey Dingwall (Federation of Small Businesses)
  • Colin Wilkinson (Scottish Licensed Trade Association)
  • Brian Lawrie (Environmental Health)
  • Andrew Morrison (Food Standards Scotland)
  • Gayle Barclay (Edinburgh Airport)
  • Alison McKinnie (Zero Waste Scotland) 
  • Sarah Archer (Zero Waste Scotland) 
  • Shaun Taylor (Scottish Government)
  • Jonathan Waite (Scottish Government)
  • Janet McVea (Scottish Government)
  • Alice Caldwell (Scottish Government)

Note taker

  • Jacqui Mitchell (Zero Waste Scotland)


  • Catherine Gee (Keep Scotland Beautiful)
  • Debbie Hosie (Assist FM)
  • Kirstin McEwan (2050 Climate Group)
  • Emily Robinson (Compass Scotland)
  • Colin Wilkinson (Scottish Licensed Trade Association)
  • Nicola Howie (Scotland Excel)

Items and actions

Welcome, apologies and context setting

The Chair opened the meeting and welcomed the group to the fourth meeting of the advisory group. There were no new members attending the meeting. 

The Chair invited any comments on the minutes from the previous meeting. 

The Chair provided updates on action points from previous meetings:

  • action point 1.1. Irene Taft to feedback from NHS catering services expert group
  • action point 1.2. ZWS to discuss recycling options for alternative products with Irene Taft – complete
  • action point 2.1. ZWS to provide further reference material/raw data on the trial carried out at the University Hospital Crosshouse in Ayrshire and the cup used. Response included in paper 4.2
  • action point 3.1. David Llewellyn from Automatic Vending Association to send vending machine data to SG e.g., number of vending machines affected by the charge. Data now received
  • action point 3.2. James Davidson to send equalities related information to SG to facilitate further discussions. Information received
  • action point 3.3. Zero Waste Scotland to share plastic definitions used in research project with Lucy Frankel. Response included in paper 4.2

Context setting 

The purpose of the fourth meeting of the advisory group was to discuss three topics in relation to a cups charge: administration, enforcement, and communications and then to take stock of what has been covered in the group meetings so far and to begin planning next steps for the group.

The Chair re-emphasised that we are at a scoping stage and no decisions have been taken on the approach to the charge. The role of the advisory group is to advise on issues and options for the implementation of a charge.

Administration of the charge (paper 4.1)

Purpose of item: To discuss the most effective and efficient ways to record and report information relating to the charge that might be needed for reporting and evaluating the impact of the charge.

Shaun Taylor (Scottish Government) introduced the Administration of the Charge agenda item.

It was highlighted that there were some reporting and record-keeping requirements included in Paper 4.1 to help shape the discussion. These are: 

  • in order to align with the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive Scottish Government need to report on the amount of single-use plastic cups placed on the market each year
  • for recordkeeping and reporting requirements, the Scottish Government need to understand the impact the charge

Scottish Government were keen to discuss the best approach for record keeping and reporting. 

The group split into breakout rooms and in the discussion, members were asked to consider:

  • what data should be recorded to understand the impact of the charge?
  • what data is already available to minimise the impact on businesses?
  • the most effective method for recording data relating to the charge. To what extent will the framework already be in place to capture this data?
  • the best method to submit data to the Scottish Government or other bodies if required

Feedback points from breakout session

Group 1:

  • data could be gathered on the number of re-usable cups used not just single-use cups placed on the market to help evaluation of the impact of the charge
  • need to understand why data is required, to determine what data is neededwhich. This will help to identify the best stage of the supply chain to target record keeping at. This might mean just one point of supply chain
  • it might be difficult to obtain information from some situation e.g. conferences or vending machines. What should be done with non-paid transactions?
  • could use sales or purchasing data
  • a de-minimis level might be appropriate but this could impact on our data gathering e.g. for placed on the market figures. However, could get around this if smaller businesses are given a lower burden of record keeping e.g. they could predict their placed on the market figures rather than keep detailed records
  • there will be some challenges around local authorities enforcing administration requirements and this element of enforcing might better fit elsewhere. Also resourcing difficulties in general at a local authorities level for enforcement

Group 2:

  • simplicity and clarity will be key, and, if applicable, a system which is consistent across the UK
  • the cumulative impact of the administrative burden on businesses was noted (e.g., DRS, EPR), and that this will lead on increasing the cost of end products
  • overall, the carrier bag charge model works well, although how the revenues are distributed to good causes is not tracked
  • a key consideration will be the threshold at which businesses have to comply with the administration requirement (e.g. minimum number of staff). Related to this, it was highlighted that small businesses are currently struggling with regulatory burden
  • SRC and NHS agreed to engage their members to explore what, if any, relevant data is already gathered on cups placed on the market, the impact of re-use schemes etc
  • the development of new IT systems to gather and report this data will have business cost implications
  • DEFRA take back scheme has been gathering data since Spring 2021, to what extent this existing data can be drawn froma?
  • need to consider how free drinks (e.g. from vending machines) will be handled in terms of reporting

Group 3:

  • also gather data on unit of drinks (sold) and number of re-usable cups used (learn from carrier bags to understand shifts/behaviours around bags-for-life)
  • larger outlets already collect data on this and might track single-use and re-usable cups, potentially existing data can be tapped into. Need to take time to talk to these businesses. Noting that some of this data will be commercially sensitive and needs to be treated accordingly
  • mmaller businesses don’t necessarily capture this data at present so would be an additional burden, on top of other changes/pressures (carrier bags, EPR, other labelling requirements etc). De minimis could help with this
  • need to be clear on purpose of gathering data and reporting. Acknowledged that data is important, but needs to be proportional, streamlined where possible, and focused on necessary data
  • need to check the reporting doesn’t create incentives to under-report

Communication of the charge (paper 4.1) 

Purpose of item: To continue the discussion on the best ways to communicate with stakeholders in advance of the charge being implemented and to identify who key stakeholders are.

Shaun Taylor (Scottish Government) introduced the communication of the charge agenda item and communication of the charge element of paper 4.1.

The group split into breakout rooms and in the discussion, members were asked to discuss: 

  • who are the key stakeholders?
  • what needs to be communicated?
  • how should the requirement to levy a charge be communicated to businesses?
  • what is the most effective way to communicate the purpose of the charge to consumers?

Feedback points from breakout sessions:

Group 1:

  • need to be honest about the approach being taken – We are implementing a charge to change people’s behaviour
  • this might have a disproportionate impact on some groups of society e.g., low-income groups so we should consider the best way to communicate with these groups
  • need to be clear on the reason for the charge and might be easier to make the case for a charge if how revenues are being invested is also communicated to consumers
  • need clarity on the science behind implementing a charge e.g., publishing references/life cycle analyses
  • enforcement side of things is very difficult – local authorities are stretched and so are businesses. There is lots of knowledge in the public sector that could be used to communicate to businesses the gains to moving to a more circular economy approach in general not just for a cups charge e.g. opportunities to save on energy costs
  • local authorities can communicate with businesses but it is resource intensive
  • engagement with businesses is very important and communication should happen both ways, explanations from SG but also opportunities for businesses to give their opinion and ask questions as well

Group 2:

  • SG ownership of the messaging will be important
  • advisory group members will be able to support communications via their trade/member associations
  • businesses are inundated with requests to promote new initiatives which may lead to this initiative not being prioritised
  • communications aimed at businesses and retailers should be prioritised and focus on factual information related to the implementation and operation of a charge
  • consumer communication should follow the business engagement, and it was noted that this may also capture businesses who miss the initial wave of comms
  • the rationale of the charge should be made clear, e.g. zero waste policy objective

Group 3:

  • this will be an extensive stakeholder list
  • need to consider the less obvious businesses as well – events/venues/stadium, producers of single-use cups, convenience stores with vending machines
  • using chambers of commerce and local authorities to communicate with difficult to reach businesses (as well as trade associations/membership orgs)
  • create resources to help businesses understand – toolkits, updates, FAQs, short animations. Divide up into key stakeholder groups
  • single-source website so there is one place to go for information
  • learn from DRS communications – get the information gathered and communicated from the start
  • work with trade associations/membership orgs/stakeholders to finesse communication resources, FAQs, details. And use to distribute info
  • identify the wins, good examples and acknowledge the positive progress businesses have already made – e.g., build on their progress, rather than having this ‘done’ to them
  • demonstrate to businesses that there is consumer demand for this change using meaningful data

Group discussion – enforcement of the charge (paper 4.1)

Purpose of item: To discuss how best to enforce the charge, including how we can learn from other examples such as the carrier bag charge or the recent Single-Use Plastics regulations.

Shaun Taylor (Scottish Government) introduced the Enforcement of the Charge agenda item and enforcement of the charge element of paper 4.1.

The group discussed: 

  • what type of enforcement is appropriate for a single-use cups charge?
  • general principles of effective enforcement
  • experience of enforcement of other related policy measures – What has worked well and not so well?

Points raised by the group included:

  • there is an assumption that local authorities will take the enforcement forward but this will be challenging without additional resources to support this new requirement 
  • there is a question as to whether the enforcement officers have the right skillset e.g. auditing skills for record keeping
  • prevention is better than cure – effective communications to business and consumers will reduce enforcement burden 
  • rolling out enforcement in stages or voluntary implementation would not be appropriate for this charge
  • there is a need for clarity on what is to be enforced and by whom
  • it is important to have consistency within circular economy legislation
  • on regulatory principles, it is important to ensure that non-compliance is penalised to a degree that makes it financially unviable 
  • where civil sanctions are utilised, this is only effective where the cost of recovering the payment is less than the penalty itself
  • system needs to be as simple as possible for everyone to understand and operate 
  • need to be mindful of the legislative burden being placed on businesses and how this can be minimised
  • must accept the direction of travel is much more towards sustainability and there must be a different approach on the interaction with businesses 
  • would welcome a scaling up enforcement attitude to a broader sustainability perspective of helping businesses move to a more sustainable and financially viable way of doing business 
  • effective comms is very important. Referring businesses to websites is not always the most effective approach
  • need to pull together resources in a more joined up way which would help with engagement and early intervention 
  • enforcement is a subject that will need continuing engagement between SG, enforcement authorities and other stakeholders

Next steps 

Shaun Taylor (SG) presented the topics covered by the group so far and summarised the next steps in the development of the single-use cups charge policy.

Shaun thanked the group for the invaluable input and expertise they have provided so far. 

The next steps in the process include the publication of the consultation analysis report for the Circular Economy (CE) Bill, consideration of a provision to charge for environmentally harmful products in the CE Bill, development of legislation to charge for single-use cups and further stakeholder engagement.

The Chair reiterated Scottish Government’s commitment to implement a charge by 2025. We are at an early point in the development of the legislation and further engagement with the Group and other stakeholders will be necessary throughout the process.

Any other business

The chair invited members to raise any other business. 

A question was raised about the implications that the Retained EU Law Bill will have on the single-use cups charge. 

Action point: SG agreed to provide advice on potential implications. 

Closing remarks

The chair thanked the group for their constructive engagement in the discussion. 

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