On 31 March 2022, the Scottish Government announced the formation of an advisory group that will shape plans for mandatory charges on coffee cups and other single-use disposable beverage containers, work on which had been on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The charge is expected to come into effect during the course of this parliament.

The group will contain representatives from every stage of the supply chain, from manufacturers and distributors through small and large retailers, as well as consumer groups, environmental NGOs, equalities groups and academics.

It is believed charging for single-use cups will help encourage people to make the move to reusable alternatives, as well as supporting the shift towards a more circular economy.

An expert panel on environmental charging and other measures had previously recommended the introduction of a national, mandatory requirement to sell beverages and disposable cups separately, including an initial minimum price of between 20 to 25p per cup.

An estimated 200 million single-use disposable beverage cups are used every year in Scotland, with this figure expected to rise to 310 million by 2025. At present, Zero Waste Scotland estimate that disposable cups generate around 4,000 tonnes of waste each year, with around 40,000 of these cups littered in Scotland every year. Due to their waterproof plastic lining, they can be hard to recycle, resulting in most of them being incinerated or sent to landfill.

As part of recently announced packaging reforms, larger coffee shops, fast food chains and others who sell drinks in disposable paper cups will have to provide a dedicated bin to collect and recycle these from 2024.

Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater said:

“Single-use coffee cups are a classic example of the throwaway culture that we are taking action to tackle. 

“Lots of people already carry a reusable cup with them, but hundreds of millions of single-use cups are still being wasted every single year.

“Evidence shows that a small charge on single-use cups can be hugely effective in encouraging people to switch to a reusable alternative.

“I look forward to working with experts representing business, the environment and consumers to take forward this important measure. Alongside Scotland’s deposit return scheme, which will recycle nearly two billion bottles and cans every year, and our action to ban some of the most problematic single-use plastics, this will make a vital contribution to reducing the amount of waste generated in the country.”