Scotland has become the first UK nation to ban “problematic” plastics, after new rules which make it an offense for businesses to offer single-use plastic cutlery, plates and stirrers came into force today.
The ban – which comes into force following a six-month grace period after the passing of legislation by the Scottish Parliament during the COP26 summit – also applies to food containers, cups and other beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene, including their covers and lids.
“By banning some of the most problematic single-use plastic items in Scotland, we are turning our promises into action,” said Scottish Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater. “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.”
Due to the UK’s Internal Markets Act, the regulations will only apply for the time being to single-use plastic products manufactured in, or imported directly into, Scotland from outside the UK.
But Slater confirmed the Scottish Government had secured an exclusion for the new plastics ban from the Act that would come into force imminently.
“The Scottish Government pressed repeatedly for, and finally secured, an exclusion from the Act for our ban,” she said. “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.”
Slater also expressed dismay that full implementation of the legislation had been hampered by provisions of the Internal Market Act. “Protecting Scotland’s environment is a devolved matter and key decisions like this one should be ours to make,” she said. “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 Internal Market Act was introduced in 2020 ahead of the UK’s departure from the European Union to prevent internal trade barriers among the UK’s different nations.
Enforcement of Scotland’s new plastic ban will be the responsibility of local authorities, with businesses that fail to comply with the regulations liable for a maximum fine of £5,000.
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks urged other nations to follow Scotland’s lead and take action to ban single use plastics.
“It’s great to see Scotland leading the way on addressing single-use problem plastics,” he said. “At every step in its lifecycle, even long after it has been discarded, plastic causes harm to wildlife and contributes to the climate crisis we’re facing today. If we’re to stop climate change and eliminate plastic pollution from our oceans, we need to rapidly phase out unnecessary single-use plastics.”