Publication - Advice and guidance

Single-Use Plastics Regulations: draft guidance

Published: 11 Nov 2021

Draft guidance for the implementation of the Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 (the Regulations). A final version will be produced before the Regulations come into force on 1 June 2022.

Single-Use Plastics Regulations: draft guidance
E - Products covered by the Regulations

E - Products covered by the Regulations

17. The Regulations apply to the following products, which are defined in regulation 2:

Single-use expanded polystyrene beverage cups

Cups for beverages including their covers and lids that are:

  • made wholly or partly of expanded polystyrene; and
  • single-use.

Single-use expanded polystyrene beverage containers

Beverage containers, including their cap or lids that are:

  • made wholly or partly of expanded polystyrene; and
  • single-use.

Section 4.4.2 of the EU SUPD guidance document provides further information on what types of covers and lids for single-use expanded polystyrene beverage cups and containers are covered by these regulations. See Annex A for more information.

Single-use expanded polystyrene food containers

Food containers that are made wholly or partly of expanded polystyrene, and single-use. Receptacles such as boxes, with or without a cover, used to contain food which:

  • is intended for immediate consumption, either on-the-spot or as take-away;
  • is typically consumed from the receptacle;
  • is ready to be consumed without any further preparation, such as cooking, boiling or heating.

Including food containers used for fast food or other meal ready for immediate consumption, except beverage containers, plates and packets and wrappers containing food.

18. The restrictions apply if the item is provided:

  • separately at the point of sale, alongside or filled with food, or
  • if they are sold empty with the intention that they are subsequently used to contain or be served with food.

Single-use plastic cutlery including forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks

Cutlery that is:

  • designed and intended for eating or serving food, including forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks and other similar utensils;
  • made wholly or partly from plastic; and
  • single-use.

Single-use plastic plates

Plates that are:

  • made wholly or partly of plastic; and
  • single-use.

19. See section H - What products are included in the SUP plates definition? of this document for more detail on what constitutes a single-use plastic plate.

Single-use plastic beverage stirrers

An implement that is:

  • designed and intended for stirring beverages;
  • made wholly or partly from plastic; and
  • single-use.

Single-use plastic straws

Straws that are:

  • made wholly or partly from plastic; and
  • single-use.

20. The Scottish Government has also included several targeted exemptions to the prohibition on the supply of straws, to maintain access for those who need single-use plastic straws to eat or drink independently or where necessary for medical needs . Further information can be found below in section I - What exemptions are included in the regulations? section of this document.

Single-use plastic balloon sticks

A stick, including its mechanisms, that is:

  • designed and intended to be attached to and to support balloons;
  • made wholly or partly from plastic; and
  • single-use.

21. There is an exemption for sticks to be attached to balloons for industrial or other professional uses and applications that are only distributed to persons acting in the course of a business. Further information can be found below in section F - What exemptions are included in the regulations?

What does single-use mean?

22. A single-use product is a product that is not conceived, designed or placed on the market to accomplish, within its life span, multiple trips or rotations by being returned to a producer for refill or re-used for the same purpose for which it was conceived.

Section 2.2.3 of the SUPD guidance document provides further information on the characteristics of a re-usable product, see Annex D for further information.

23. Items that are designed to be used multiple times, such as reusable plastic cutlery, are not included in the Regulations.

24. Product design characteristics can help to determine whether a product should be considered as single- or multiple-use. Whether a product is conceived, designed or placed on the market for reuse, can be assessed by considering the product's expected functional life, i.e. whether it is intended and designed to be used several times before final disposal, without losing product functionality, physical capacity or quality, and whether consumers typically conceive, perceive and use it as a reusable product. Relevant product design characteristics include material composition, washability and reparability, which would allow multiple trips and rotations for the same purpose as for which the product was originally conceived. For a receptacle, which is packaging, its reusable nature can be determined in accordance with the essential requirements under Directive 94/62/EC on packaging and packaging waste, which was implemented in the UK by the Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations 2015, including any declaration attesting to the conformity of the packaging with those essential requirements and related standards.

25. The table below provides some examples of the products referred to above in the context of these restrictions.

Product Examples of items that are banned Examples of items not banned
Single-use expanded polystyrene beverage cups Cups made entirely or partly from expanded polystyrene, a foamed plastic sometimes known as Styrofoam. Any other beverage cup made from other plastics, or materials with or without a plastic lining or coating.
Single-use expanded polystyrene beverage containers A beverage container includes beverage bottles and composite beverage packaging made from expanded polystyrene. Beverage bottles and beverage packaging (such as drinks cartons) made from other plastics or materials.
Single-use expanded polystyrene food containers Food containers, with or without a lid, made entirely or partly from expanded polystyrene containing a hot or cold meal, dessert or snack which doesn't require further preparation and is intended for immediate consumption, either on-the-spot or take-away. For example, expanded polystyrene clamshell containers typically used for takeaways. Food containers made from a different plastic or material with or without plastic lining or coating. Fish boxes or meat trays, frozen meals or other food not intended for immediate consumption either on-the-spot or takeaway, of any material type. Food containers containing food that requires further preparation such as cooking, boiling or heating.
Single-use plastic cutlery including forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks Forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks and other similar utensils such as single-use plastic sporks. Single-use plastic cutlery attached to or integrated into food packaging. Plastic spoons which are provided for use with medicines.
Single-use plastic plates Single-use plastic plates made wholly from plastic or partially from plastic such as plastic-lined paper plates. See section H below for further detail. Reusable plastic plates, i.e. those that are either designed, conceived or placed on the market to accomplish, within their life span, multiple trips or rotations. Single-use plates made from materials other than plastic. Single-use plastic food containers (other than those made of Expanded Polystyrene).
Single-use plastic beverage stirrers Single-use plastic stirrers made wholly or partially from plastic. Plastic stirrers that are either designed, conceived or placed on the market to accomplish, within their life span, multiple trips or rotations. Single-use stirrers made from other materials.
Single-use plastic straws Single-use straws that are wholly or partially made from plastic, e.g. plastic-lined or coated paper straws. Single-use plastic straws attached to or integrated into food packaging are included in the restriction. Single-use plastic straws that are required to facilitate independent living or for medical purposes. See section I on exemptions for further information.
Single-use plastic balloon sticks Single-use plastic balloon sticks that are distributed to consumers or persons not acting in the course of a business, for example balloon sticks to be attached to balloons handed out to guests at a birthday party. Reusable plastic balloon sticks. Single-use plastic balloon sticks which are for attaching to balloons for industrial or other professional use and which are only distributed to persons acting in the course of business e.g. business to business, for research, industrial, professional decoration, and that are not distributed to consumers.

In some cases it may be difficult to identify which category a product falls under. Further information on differentiating between products is provided in section 4.5 of the EU SUPD Guidance. This information has been reproduced in Annex B.

What materials are covered by the restrictions?

26. The following materials are covered by these regulations:

Plastic

27. Plastic is defined as a material consisting of a polymer as defined in Article 3(5) of Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH), to which additives or other substances may have been added, and which can function as a main structural component of final products, with the exception of natural polymers that have not been chemically modified.

28. This includes plastic which is recyclable or non-recyclable and plastic which is labelled compostable or biodegradable. Compostable plastic is not always labelled as being plastic so you should ask your supplier if unsure.

29. Biodegradable/bio-based plastics are considered to be plastic under the Regulations. Currently, there are no widely agreed technical standards available to certify that a specific plastic product is properly biodegradable in the marine environment in a short timeframe and without causing harm to the environment.

Section 2.1 of the EU SUPD Guidance provides further detailed information on this definition of plastic, see Annex C for more information.

30. The Regulations apply to the single-use products listed if they are wholly or partially made from plastic. Therefore, items which are plastic-lined or coated such as a paper plate with a plastic lining or coating , are within the scope of the Regulations.

Expanded polystyrene

31. The Regulations apply to single-use plastic cups, beverage containers and food containers made of expanded polystyrene (EPS), a lightweight foamed plastic sometimes known as Styrofoam. This includes extruded polystyrene (XPS) which is considered a sub-category of EPS. Single-use plastic beverage cups, containers and food containers made from other types of plastic are not included in these Regulations.

What products are included in the SUP plates definition?

32. The Regulations apply to single-use plastic plates. In line with the EU SUPD Guidance, these items are considered to be predominantly flat dishes which typically have slightly bevelled or raised perimeters to stop food rolling off or spilling from them. These items are sold without a lid, regardless of whether they are covered, e.g. by foil or film, at the point of sale. They are designed/used for consuming or serving food at the point of sale and are not suitable for transporting food away. When assessing if the Regulations apply to a product, the definition above should be considered rather than relying on the name that the product has been given by manufacturers or distributors.

33. The Regulations apply to single-use plates, which are made entirely from plastic, as well as those made partially from plastic, such as paper plates with a plastic lining.

34. As per above Annex B, it can be difficult on occasion to differentiate between product categories, including identifying whether a particular product is a plate or food container. Guidance is included below to assist with this question.

35. Per the section above, food containers covered by the Regulations are single-use and made wholly or partly of expanded polystyrene. They are receptacles such as boxes, with or without a cover, used to contain food which:

  • is intended for immediate consumption, either on-the-spot or take-away,
  • is typically consumed from the receptacle, and
  • is ready to be consumed without any further preparation, such as cooking, boiling or heating.

36. Including food containers used for fast food or other meal ready for immediate consumption, except beverage containers, plates and packets and wrappers containing food.

37. These food containers typically contain single-serve portions of food, however the restrictions still apply if they are sold empty with the intention that they are subsequently used to contain or be served with food.

38. The EU SUPD Guidance provides an illustrative example to differentiate between plates and food containers (Table 4-12). It is reproduced below. Note that per section E - Products covered by the Regulations above, only EPS food containers are covered by these regulations.

Single-use plastic plate

Indicators indicating that the receptacle is a plate:

  • Dish sold without a lid, regardless of whether it is covered e.g. by foil or film, at the point of sale
  • Used to serve or eat food from, but presence of food is not required at the moment of purchase
  • While being predominantly flat, typically it has a slightly bevelled or raised perimeter to stop food rolling or spilling off it
  • Printed information including contents, ingredients or weight are usually not present.

Single-use plastic food container

Indicators indicating that the receptacle is a food container:

  • Receptacles such as boxes sold with or without a lid
  • Able to contain food
  • May facilitate transport of food
  • Receptacle usually sold with printed information regarding contents, ingredients and often product weight

Contact

Email: supd@gov.scot