AS work continues at COP26 to reach a global agreement on limiting the impacts of climate change, Scotland is looking to become the first UK nation to ban some single-use plastic.

Legislation has been laid out that will see Scotland ban some of the most environmentally damaging plastic items including plastic cutlery, polystyrene food and containers and cups.

The ban on these single-use plastic items is due to come in on June 1, 2022.

The Scottish Government's circular economy minister Lorna Slater (below) said they are "turning promise into action" by banning some of the "most problematic single-use plastic items" in Scotland.

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She continued: “Every year, hundreds of millions of pieces of single-use plastic are wasted in this country. They litter our coasts, pollute our oceans and contribute to the climate emergency. That has to end and this ban will be another step forward in the fight against plastic waste and throwaway culture. This is another example of the sort of bold action that is needed if we are to deliver on the commitments that are being made at COP26.

“Crucially, the legislation includes exemptions for single-use plastic straws, to make sure that those who need them for independent living or medical purposes can still get access to them.  However, the ban is at risk from the UK Internal Market Act, which effectively exempts any items that are produced in or imported via another part of the UK.  I will be writing to the UK government to ask that they take the necessary steps to ensure the integrity of this ban.”

The single-use plastics being banned in Scotland from June 2022

  • Plastic cutlery - including forks, knives, spoons and chopsticks
  • Plastic plates
  • Plastic straws
  • Beverage stirrers
  • Balloon sticks
  • Food containers made of expanded polystyrene 
  • Cups and other beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene, including their covers and lids

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Friends of the Earth Scotland's circular economy campaigner Kim Pratt said that these single-use plastics are a "symbol of our throw away culture" and welcomed the Scottish Government taking moves to ban them.

Pratt continued: "This move is a good first step, but ending the plastics crisis requires more than banning a short list of single use items. Over 99% of plastics are made from fossil fuels so reducing the production of plastic is essential for reaching our climate change goals. Plastics pollute at every stage of their life cycle, from oil and gas extraction, plastics production and transportation to finally, incineration, landfill or littering. Attention must now be turned to the producers of plastics."

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WWF Scotland director Lang Banks welcomed the Scottish Government introducing this ban and hoped that it would encourage other governments to take similar action.

He said: “Despite plastics not featuring much during discussions at COP26, the climate impacts globally are huge – equivalent to the output of almost 200 coal-fired power stations annually. It’s been estimated that by 2040, when plastic production is expected to have doubled, climate emissions from the plastic lifecycle will account for up to 20% of the entire global carbon budget.

"I hope that if Scotland can lead on ending polluting single-use plastics, others will follow, and that the UN will act on WWF’s call for a legally binding global treaty on marine plastic pollution.”

Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Zero Waste Scotland very much welcomes this landmark ban on single-use plastics introduced by the Scottish Government. It’s fantastic to see clear, bold action already being taken as we close out COP26.

“While these measures are incredibly important in reducing the amount of plastic waste we produce, we also need to look at the bigger issue of consumption if we’re to truly make an impact.  Around four fifths of Scotland’s global carbon footprint – a key indicator for climate change – is attributed to the production, consumption, and waste of products and materials. In fact, the average Scot consumes 18.4 tonnes of materials every year – that’s the equivalent of 50kg per week on average. The evidence is clear. Consumption in Scotland is unsustainably high.

“We need to change from a ‘make, use, dispose of’ culture, referred to as the linear economy, to a more circular economy where we maximise the value of products and materials we use to make them last as long as possible. We can move towards a circular economy if we work together and this legislation is a vital step in the right direction.”