Scotland becomes first UK nation to ban single-use plastics

Scotland has become the first part of the UK to implement a ban on many of the most problematic single-use plastics. The Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 come into force on 1 June 2022.

The ban means it is an offence for businesses in Scotland to provide the items and applies to the following single-use items: plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks), plates, straws, beverage stirrers and balloon sticks; food containers made of expanded polystyrene; and cups and other beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene, including their covers and lids.

Around 700 million of these single-use items are currently used in Scotland every year.

The regulations came into force following a six month grace period, during which Zero Waste Scotland ran a business campaign to raise awareness on how to prepare.  

Enforcement will be the responsibility of local authorities. Failure to comply with the regulations carries a maximum fine of £5,000.

The legislation does include an exemptions for single-use plastic straws, to make sure that those who need them for independent living or medical purposes can still access them. 

This ban was under threat from the UK Internal Market Act. The Act would have rendered the ban ineffective as businesses in Scotland would have been able to supply banned items that originated from the rest of the UK.

The Scottish Government pressed for UK Ministers to exclude the Scottish ban from the Act, eventually securing an exclusion for the ban which will come into force shortly after 1 June.

Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater said:

“By banning some of the most problematic single-use plastic items in Scotland, we are turning our promises into action. Every year, hundreds of millions of single-use plastic are wasted, with many of them littering our beaches, waters and parks. This ban will encourage businesses to make the switch to reusable alternatives, helping to reduce litter and cut emissions.

“Protecting Scotland’s environment is a devolved matter and key decisions like this one should be ours to make. It was wholly unacceptable that it could have been effectively vetoed by the UK Government under their UK Internal Market Act, which it imposed on the rest of the UK despite no devolved legislature giving consent to it.

“The Scottish Government pressed repeatedly for, and finally secured, an exclusion from the Act for our ban. While we are frustrated that the exclusion will not be in force by 1 June, it will follow soon after, meaning this important ban will be fully effective across Scotland. Regardless of the delay in the exclusion, we’d encourage everyone to ditch these harmful items now.”

REHIS is a registered charity in Scotland, SC009406

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