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Ground-breaking ‘Ditching Disposables’ pilot will see Scottish businesses break up with single-use items for good

Zero Waste Scotland has launched the first wave of its ‘Ditching Disposables’ pilot, which will help a number of Scottish businesses to reduce and eliminate their reliance on single-use items. 

17 Dec 21

The drive coincides with the recent announcement from the Scottish Government that they will ban a wide range of single-use plastics items from June 2022. The new regulations include restrictions on plastic cutlery, drink stirrers, and food containers made from expanded polystyrene – items predominately found in cafes and hospitality businesses.  

The legislation covers these plastic items made from both fossil-based and plant-based plastics regardless of whether they are recyclable, biodegradable or compostable. It also covers plastic items which contain recycled content. 

In line with recommendations of the Expert Panel on Environmental Charges and Other Measures, the Ditching Disposables project will support organisations across Scotland to trial and implement sustainable alternatives to problematic single-use items. A common mistake, which businesses must avoid where possible, is to replace one disposable option with another one made from a different material. 

This is why Zero Waste Scotland is embarking on a collaborative campaign to guide businesses on alternative and environmentally friendly solutions, such as swapping single-use plastic stirrers with reusable metal spoons rather than wooden ones, which also end up in the bin after one use. 

The Ditching Disposables pilot is also a pivotal step towards the creation of a first-of-its-kind roadmap – a guide that will equip businesses across the world with the necessary tools and knowledge, using data collated from successful interventions found through the initiative. 

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive at Zero Waste Scotland, said: 

“We’ve all seen those pictures and videos of horrendous litter pollution strewn across land and sea. Waste, predominately made up of single-use items, is persistently causing harm to the environment in Scotland as well as the rest of the world. 

“Right now, we live in a throwaway society, and we urgently need to move away from disposables completely. Our Ditching Disposables pilot is a huge step towards this goal. 

“We’re working directly with business owners and their customers, at the ground level, to give them the right tools to find alternatives to disposables. We’re confident this pilot will help them to feel like they’re doing their vital part in reducing the amount of waste we produce. 

“At COP26, Scotland proved it’s a world-leader when it comes to sustainability, and this pioneering project will further cement this status and form part of its legacy.” 

Welcoming the pilot project, Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater said:  

“There is no longer any doubt that plastic waste is having a hugely damaging impact on our oceans, environment and climate. The Scottish Government supports a move away from the old-fashioned and environmentally destructive consumption model of take, make and consume. Lessons from this trial will be crucial in our efforts to reduce our reliance on single-use plastic and in our journey towards a circular economy that promotes re-use, repair and recycling.” 

Take-out fish and chips for a stroll in the beach often come in wax-coated paper boxes, which have a carbon impact and cannot be easily recycled. However, many food outlets use them. St Andrew’s Takeaway is currently trialling innovative alternatives but, in the meantime, uses an estimated 10,800 disposable food containers a month. Over a year, this would have the same carbon cost as a return flight from Edinburgh to New York. If five percent of their customers switched to reusable food containers, it would save 100kg of carbon dioxide equivalent a year.2 

Businesses in Portobello and Joppa already signed up to take part in the Ditching Disposables pilot include Malvarosa, Go Go Beets, Oscar’s Gelato, The Boathouse, St Andrews Restaurant & Takeaway and ShrimpWreck. They’ll trial a series of initiatives including a deposit scheme for reusable containers, a charge for single-use items and edible spoons for ice cream.  

Alvaro Bernabeu, Owner of Malvarosa restaurant, said:

“I don't see sustainability as a trend but the way forward. As a small business, we're doing what we can and want to play a part in changing attitudes. The recent ban on problematic single-use items by the Scottish Government is a very welcome step, but there isn’t enough guidance available to businesses on what is the most environmentally friendly alternative. I see this pilot as a really worthwhile exercise and I’m sure it’ll be very welcome by my customers.” 

The Ditching Disposables initiative will be supported by a regionalised social media campaign, featuring striking imagery of plastic waste on Portobello Beach, and using the hashtag #DitchingDisposables. 

The campaign originally made headlines when announced in early 2020 with support from the Scottish Government – being hailed as an important step towards banishing polluting single-use items for good. However, it had to be paused due to businesses closing in line with lockdown restrictions. 

Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer for the Marine Conservation Society, said: 

“The Ditching Disposables campaign is a fantastic opportunity to give Scotland a glimpse into what having a circular economy would look like and the massive benefits across society it would bring. By moving to reuse, repair and refill our volunteers would start to see less plastic on our beaches which would save wildlife, keep Scotland stunning and reduce our carbon footprint.” 

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Notes For Editors

1 Data collected by volunteers during the Marine Conservation Societies Great British Beach Clean in September 2020. 

2 The source for the carbon impact of a wax-coated paper box can be found here. This analysis by Zero Waste Scotland assumes no return customers, and it doesn’t consider the carbon impacts associated with buying reusable new containers. Plus, it doesn’t take into account the carbon impacts of washing reusable containers as well as the end-of-life of both reusable and disposable containers. 

While Zero Waste Scotland has taken reasonable steps to ensure the content of this assessment was correct in all material respects when originally drafted, it employs a methodology appropriate to the original purpose of the report. Accordingly, reliance should not be placed on this assessment if used for a purpose other than that for which it was expressly intended, and you should seek your own independent advice in connection with any use of the report or any information or data contained within it. 

Zero Waste Scotland does not accept liability for any loss, damage, cost or expense incurred or arising from reliance on this report. References in the report to any specific information, methods, models, data, databases, or tools do not imply endorsement by Zero Waste Scotland.  

For FAQs on the single-use plastics regulations, visit the Zero Waste Scotland website here. 

About Zero Waste Scotland 

Zero Waste Scotland exists to lead Scotland to use products and resources responsibly, focusing on where we can have the greatest impact on climate change.   

Using evidence and insight, our goal is to inform policy, and motivate individuals and businesses to embrace the environmental, economic, and social benefits of a circular economy.   

We are a not-for-profit environmental organisation, funded by the Scottish Government and European Regional Development Fund. 

More information on all Zero Waste Scotland’s programmes can be found at https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/. You can also keep up to date with the latest from Zero Waste Scotland via our social media channels - Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn 

The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds 2014-20 Programme. For further information visit our website or follow @scotgovESIF. 

For media enquiries contact: 

Sophie Thirkell, Communications Consultant (mat cover), Zero Waste Scotland 

Mobile: 07966 284095 

Email: sophie.thirkell@zerowastescotland.org.uk  

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