Climate Crisis Plastics Reducing Pollution

Single-use plastics – what happens now?

12 OCT 20 | 3 minutes

We’ve all seen the heart-wrenching images of marine and wildlife surrounded by plastic.  Unfortunately, you don’t need to go far to spot single-use items littering the areas we live, visit and enjoy right here in Scotland.

The single-use problem

As well as causing issues with litter, single-use items are a big contributor to climate change.  Around four-fifths of Scotland’s carbon footprint comes from all the goods we produce, use and often throw out.

In the EU, the most commonly found and problematic single-use items on beaches are plastic cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and balloon sticks.  In Scotland, it’s also not hard to find expanded polystyrene food containers, expanded polystyrene cups and other beverages containers – equally damaging to surrounding environments and wildlife. 

Single-use or reusables?

How do we stop this?

So far, in Scotland, there have already been several steps put in place to combat the single-use problem including the ban of plastic stemmed cotton buds and microbeads, new regulations for a deposit return scheme, and the introduction of the single-use carrier bags charge.

The next step involves a twelve-week public consultation on banning certain items, taking place from October 2020.  This is an opportunity for businesses, organisations and individuals like you to have a say on the introduction of market restrictions on problematic single-use plastic items.  

These items include:

#MySayOnSingleUse is the chance to shape the future of single-use plastic items in Scotland.

  1. Plates

  2. Straws

  3. Cutlery

  4. Stirrers

  5. Balloon sticks

  6. Take away food containers made from expanded polystyrene

  7. Cups and other beverage containers made from expanded polystyrene

  8. Products made from oxo-degradable plastics

Steps to address single-use plastics

What would these restrictions mean?

These proposed market restrictions are aligning with wider EU legislation, known as the Single-Use Plastics Directive, which will reduce the impact of these products on the environment – effectively banning them.

This will introduce new legislation in Scotland, restricting the availability of these items and bring with it the associated environmental benefits of reducing litter and carbon impacts. 

The proposed restrictions would cover single-use plastic products of all types, including ones that are made of plant-based materials and that are biodegradable or compostable.  It would also cover single-use items which contain plastic and other materials such as plastic-coated paper or plastic-lined cartons. 

This would mean that businesses could not provide these items to end users (customers) in Scotland on a free or chargeable basis either on their premises or online.  
The Scottish Government are also considering the introduction of a restriction on the supply of these items, where the supply is not linked to commercial activity.  For example, the supply by individuals in a personal capacity and the manufacture of these items.  This is not strictly required by the Single Use Plastics Directive, though shall be considered as part of the consultation.

Future action on single-use plastic items is likely to include plans to reduce how much we use certain items, ensure the companies who produce products do so more responsibly, and make further improvements to recycling collections. 

All of these activities are intended to reduce the harm caused by single-use items, including reducing the amount of single-use plastics that end up as marine litter. 
It is the Scottish Government’s intention to explore further market restrictions on a wider range of items in due course.   

Proposed market restrictions will reduce the impact of single-use items on the environment – effectively banning them. #MySayOnSingleUse

How can I have my say?

The public consultation is looking for views on various aspects including: 

  • whether you support the proposals; 
  • what the economic, environmental and social impacts of implementation are;
  • where exemptions should apply.  

There are lots of ways you can get involved in the process and have your say...

Join in with a live public webinar, hosted by Zero Waste Scotland, on 28 October or 11 November. 

These webinars are open to everyone, and will give you an opportunity to learn more, ask questions and share your views.  Visit to find out more.  We’ll be sharing links to these live sessions via our social media channels so keep an eye out.

You can also join in the conversation with Zero Waste Scotland on social media via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  Use the hashtag #MySayOnSingleUse to ask your questions, share content and let others know about their chance to shape Scotland’s future environment.

And finally, you can engage directly with the consultation itself.  Visit, where you will be able to complete the formal consultation response and ensure your views are heard.   

#MySayOnSingleUse webinars are a chance to learn more, ask questions and share your views.  Visit to find out more.

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