Scotland has become the first UK nation to implement a ban on many of the most problematic single-use plastics, as legislation came into force on Wednesday.
The ban means it will be an offence for businesses in Scotland to provide the items – which include plastic cutlery, plates and stirrers.
Around 700 million of these single-use items are currently used in Scotland every year.
The legislation, which was passed by the Scottish Parliament during COP26 last year, includes 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 Government’s controversial Internal Market Act, which would have allowed businesses in Scotland to supply banned items that originated from the rest of the UK.
The SNP Government pressed for UK Ministers to exclude the Scottish ban from the Act, eventually securing an exclusion for the ban but with a year-long delay because of what the Tory Government did.
Kenneth Gibson MSP said:
“It can take hundreds of years for plastic to decompose so the single use plastic cup or polystyrene takeaway box we use today, will remain sitting or drifting in our seas for not only the rest of our lives, but also our children, and theirs, and so on.
“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 Tory 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 ban 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.
Enforcement will be the responsibility of local authorities. Failure to comply with the regulations carries a maximum fine of £5,000.
Read the Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Scotland) Regulations 2021 here.