Plastic waste, impact on environment

SINGLE-USE plastic straws and food containers could be banned in Scotland in a bid to reduce damaging waste and preserve the natural environment.

The Scottish Government has called upon the public to have their say on whether to ban or curtail the sale of single-use plastic items that are harmful to the environment.

This would include plastic plates, straws, cutlery, balloon sticks, polystyrene food, and drink containers.

An estimated 300 million plastic straws, 276 million pieces of plastic cutlery, 50 million plastic plates, and 66 million polystyrene food containers are used annually in Scotland.

Products made from oxo-degradable plastics, that break down to micro-plastic pollution and negatively affect the recycling of conventional plastic, could also be banned.

Restrictions on plastics “including on the supply or manufacture of single-use plastics” could come into effect as early as 2021, the Scottish Government has suggested.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “There is no longer any doubt that plastic waste is having a hugely damaging impact on our oceans, rivers and land ecosystems.

“We must act now to reduce our reliance on single-use plastic and drive forward a move towards more sustainable, environmentally-friendly alternatives.

“Failure to do so is a dereliction of our duty to our children, who will inherit a natural world polluted by the plastics we have thrown away for the sake of convenience.”

She added: “This government is committed to tackling this problem. We were the first country in the UK to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds and plans are well under way for a deposit return scheme in Scotland.

“The proposals published today will take us further – keeping pace with the environmental standards of our European partners and reaffirming our position as a world-leader in the circular economy.”

Single-use plastics are the ones most commonly found washed up on European beaches and were identified in the EU Single Plastics Directive as contributing the majority share of litter found in the marine environment.

Iain Gulland, chief executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Plastic is by far the most commonly used material in today’s single-use culture.

“There are clear benefits in use, of flexibility and durability, but plastic also causes significant damage when it leaks into our natural environment, including our rivers, lochs and seas.

“The consultation offers an opportunity to protect wildlife and prevent the heartbreaking scenes we see all too often in TV documentaries like Blue Planet 2.

“We hope people will also take this opportunity to adopt more sustainable solutions, such as reusable alternatives, to these single-use items.”