Login/Register ZWS
Main content

FAQs - Single-use plastics - regulations

Stocks & Balloon sticks

What if I still have some stock left by the 1 June 2022 deadline?

From the point at which the regulations come into force on 1 June 2022, it will be unlawful to supply any single-use plastic cutlery, plates, beverage stirrers, as well as food containers and cups made of expanded polystyrene. 

These restrictions apply to both online and physical transactions, regardless of whether the items are charged for or handed out for free.

It will be unlawful for businesses to supply balloon sticks, except where they are used for industrial or professional purposes and not handed out to consumers. 

There are specific exemptions to protect the supply of single-use plastic straws for people who require them to eat and drink independently or for medical purposes. It will be important that catering businesses continue to hold a smaller supply of single-use plastic straws for these purposes, and that pharmacies stock them for individuals to purchase for use at home or elsewhere. A small number of other establishments, including hospitals, care homes, schools, early learning providers and prisons will also be allowed to supply single-use plastic straws for those who require them.

Now the regulations have been laid in parliament, businesses should prepare for these market restrictions coming into force from 1 June 2022. Your business should consider how to effectively manage stock levels and make future purchases so stocks are used up in time for the 1 June 2022.

What exemption applies to balloon sticks for industrial or professional use?

Single-use plastic balloon sticks which are distributed to consumers are restricted under the regulations. This includes ones that are purchased or supplied ‘free’ with a balloon at a shop or other business or are distributed to consumers at a private event.

The regulations do not apply to single-use plastic balloon sticks that are sold for industrial or professional use. This is in line with the requirements of the Single-Use Plastics Directive. It includes where balloon sticks are supplied business to business and not distributed to consumers, such as professional party planners.

The Scottish Government has published full guidance to accompany the final regulations which explain the scope of the regulations and provide additional detail on how the regulations are to be implemented.

 

What should I use instead?

What should businesses and consumers use instead of the restricted items once they are no longer available from 1 June 2022?

77% of Scots are concerned about the amount of single-use plastic items and packaging we use in Scotland.  This is an opportunity to think differently and only use single-use items where absolutely required, saving money and helping to fight climate change.

By introducing market restrictions, the Scottish Government wants to see innovative solutions towards more sustainable business models and reusable alternatives prioritised over substituting plastic for other materials. For example, choosing metal reusable cutlery over single-use cutlery made of non-plastic materials.  The problems caused by single-use items cannot be solved by replacing them with alternative single-use items made with different materials.

Are alternatives more expensive than the single-use plastic items which are being restricted? The overall cost difference

The overall cost difference to an individual business is expected to be minor. If replacing these single-use plastic items with other disposable alternatives, then businesses have already shown ways to successfully manage these small costs. For example, by reducing the number of items handed out businesses can reduce the number they need to purchase. This also reduces the environmental impact from these items, since these alternative disposable items are still single use – even if they have different environmental impacts to plastic.  

The Scottish Government is clear that they want to see innovative solutions towards more sustainable business models, and this includes seeing reusable alternatives prioritised over substituting plastic for other materials. For example, replacing single-use plastic cutlery with washable metal cutlery.

Adopting reusable alternatives can have cost implications for businesses, however, there are also savings to be made from not having to continually purchase single-use items or pay for their disposal.

Choosing single-use should be the last resort, rather than the default choice.

Why is the manufacturing of some of these items being restricted?

The regulations prevent the manufacturing of single-use plastic cutlery, plates, beverage stirrers, as well as food containers and cups made of expanded polystyrene. This means that as well as restricting the supply of these items, the items cannot be manufactured for export, distribution and disposal elsewhere in the world. The issues relating to single-use plastics are global, not just ones which impact Scotland.  Prevention of manufacturing and exporting of these items demonstrates Scotland’s responsible global citizenship by not contributing to the environmental impacts of these items in other countries. 

Single-use plastic straws can still be manufactured in Scotland to allow for a supply of straws to be available for those how need them to eat and drink independently and for medical purposes. 

What else is Scotland doing to tackle single-use and transition to a circular economy?

The market restrictions are a milestone on Scotland’s journey to a circular economy. They form part of a package of measures outlined in the EU’s Single-Use Plastics (SUP) Directive that the Scottish Government has committed to implement to also address marine litter and support a shift away from our throwaway culture. The Scottish Government will start looking at measures to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic beverage cups and food containers, initially prioritising the introduction of charges for cups and the establishment of a working group to support the design of this change. 

These measures are also part of the Scottish Government’s overall approach to reducing reliance on disposable items and sit alongside a broader range of initiatives already established or underway, like the UK-wide approach, led by Defra, to develop an extended producer responsibility scheme for packaging. A consultation on this closed in June 2021. This scheme will support the Scottish Government’s agenda to improve collection, recycling and recyclability of plastic and other packaging which aren’t subject to these market restrictions.

What is meant by the new legislation and placing market restrictions on the affected single-use plastic items?

The new regulations essentially mean a ban on the single-use plastic items covered by the legislation, with some exemptions for specific items. This means that businesses are not be able to supply these items in Scotland from the 1 June 2022, whether those businesses intend to charge for these items or not. The supply restriction applies for both online and in-store sales.  It includes the supply of imported listed items and materials. 

In addition to restricting supply, the manufacturing of single-use plastic cutlery, plates, beverage stirrers, and single-use food containers, cups and other beverage containers made from expanded polystyrene are prohibited under the ban.

The Scottish Government has produced full guidance to accompany the final regulations which explains the scope of the regulations and provide additional detail on how the regulations are to be implemented.

 

 

Will there be any exemptions to these restrictions?

The new regulations create an exemption to protect access to single-use plastic straws for those who need them to eat and drink independently or for medical purposes.  From the point of implementation on 1 June 2022, single-use plastic straws will be available for purchase at pharmacies or given on request at hospitality or catering premises. 

A supply of single-use plastic straws are also be allowed in a select number of other places, where access to single-use plastic straws may be essential. This includes care homes, schools, childcare and early learning facilities as well as prisons. The regulations provide an exemption where single-use plastic straws are medical devices, used for medical purposes and where they are used for personal care or support.  

By taking an approach that is consistent with other parts of the UK, the exemption provides clarity for individuals on how to access single-use plastic straws wherever they are located.  It also provides clarity and consistency for businesses.  This approach to protect access to these items is important as single-use plastic straws are a vital accessibility aid for many people to eat and drink independently and can significantly impact social inclusion for some individuals

The Scottish Government’s guidance will help businesses maintain access to single-use plastic straws for those who need them, to ensure the exemption is implemented in a way that respects equalities interests and the dignity of those who need to access single-use plastic straws. Further advice will be available in due course on Zero Waste Scotland’s website to provide additional guidance on this matter.

The exemption has been included as straws are a vital accessibility aid, and it is important that they remain accessible to those who need them. Businesses should continue to comply with the duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010.  It is important to note that customers do not need to provide proof of need when requesting straws.

The regulations also provide an exemption, in line with the SUP Directive, for single-use plastic balloon sticks which are used for industrial or professional uses. This covers use by events professionals, for example, for decorative purposes where the balloons and balloon sticks are not handed out to customers. 

When will the final regulations come into force?

The regulations were laid before the Scottish Parliament on 11 November 2021. The items listed in these regulations will no longer be available from 1 June 2022, subject to some exemptions.  

With more than six-months between the regulations being laid and them coming into force on 1 June 2022 businesses affected by the ban have time to prepare. Taking steps to get ready for the change in the law will mean stock levels can be managed so these items are phased out in time. Consideration should be given to maintaining a limited stock of single-use plastic straws so they can be provided on request to those who require them to eat and drink independently. 

Consumers may expect to see less of the restricted items being available as businesses transition towards alternative options. 

Why is Scotland taking these steps to ban certain single-use plastic items?

The Scottish Government is now placing a ban on certain single-use plastic items as it aligns with our ambitions as a country to tackle our throwaway society and move Scotland towards a circular economy where items are kept in use for as long as possible.  Plastic stemmed cotton buds have already been banned in Scotland since October 2019 ahead of the rest of the UK. 

What are the benefits of the new single-use plastics regulations?

The new single-use plastics regulations are an essential step to tackling the climate emergency.  Around four fifths of Scotland’s carbon footprint comes from all the goods, materials and services we produce, use and often throw out after minimal use.  We use an estimated 300 million plastic straws, 276 million pieces of plastic cutlery, 50 million plastic plates and 66 million polystyrene food containers every year in Scotland.  Each item used for minutes and then discarded in the bin, or worse, found littering our streets, countryside, rivers and seas, where they can last for centuries.   

The introduction of the single-use plastics ban will help put an end to this and positively impact our environment.  It is an exciting next step towards a circular economy in Scotland where products are kept in use for as long as possible. We encourage businesses and individuals to opt instead for reusable alternatives as much as possible.  Moving towards reusables lowers our carbon impact, saves money in the long run and of course there is no associated litter. 

Are Scots supportive of the regulations?

The Scottish Government conducted a public consultation which showed strong support for banning the single-use plastics items included in the draft regulations, which are commonly found washing up on beaches across Europe.  Zero Waste Scotland research showed that 77% of Scots are concerned about the amount of single-use items and packaging we use and that 66% would support even further measures to reduce consumption such as introducing charges on items (similar to that of the carrier bag charge).  The reasons for their support included reducing harm to the marine environment, reducing litter and help stop climate change.   

What do the regulations cover?

What items are within the scope of the new legislation?

The ban means it is unlawful to make and supply commercially any of the following items : 

  • Single-use plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks and other similar utensils)
  • Single-use plastic plates; 
  • Single-use plastic beverage stirrers; 
  • Single-use food containers made of expanded polystyrene; 
  • Single-use cups made of expanded polystyrene. 

The regulations also make it unlawful to supply commercially the items below. These items are subject to exemptions which allow them to be supplied in particular settings and circumstances:  

  • Single-use plastic straws; 
  • Single-use plastic balloon sticks; 

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.

Why is plastic that is biodegradable or compostable included? Isn’t that a green alternative to normal plastic?

Single-use items made from plastic labelled as biodegradable or compostable are still single-use and still discarded after one use. There are environmental impacts, be it carbon emissions, ecosystem damage or greater pressure on water resources, associated with all of the products we produce, including plastics which are labelled biodegradable or compostable.

Replacing these items with reusable alternatives that we can use for longer can reduce these impacts. Plastics which are labelled biodegradable or compostable are not designed to be discarded into our environment. Like normal plastic single-use items, these items are challenging to deal with in our waste management system and often end up being landfilled or incinerated too.

Why are there only plastic items on the list, and not disposable items made from other materials? 

The durability, versatility and widespread use of plastic has been a significant factor in modern lifestyles and it is this long-lasting nature that makes this material so damaging to our oceans, rivers and on land.  Plastic represents 20% of all land-based litter in Scotland and nine out of the top ten items found on Scottish beaches contain plastic. 

Single-use plastic items are those which are covered in the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive and so those are the ones that are included in the new regulations. However, the Scottish Government recognises replacing single-use plastic items with alternative single-use items made with different materials can result in switching one set of environmental impacts for another. While the focus is on the items listed above, the Scottish Government is committed to monitoring closely the response to these restrictions and assessing what more needs to be done to address our throwaway culture. 

Why have these particular items been selected?

The items included within the scope of the new legislation align Scotland with the items selected by the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive and are the most commonly found sources of beach and marine litter on beaches in Europe.   

Why is this legislation being introduced in Scotland when it is an EU Directive and we are leaving the EU?

The Scottish Government is introducing this legislation to align Scotland with the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive as it reinforces Scotland’s ambitions in tackling our throwaway society and moving Scotland towards a circular economy where items are kept in use for as long as possible.  Plastic stemmed cotton buds have already been subject to market restrictions in Scotland since October 2019, ahead of the rest of the UK and the Directive.  

Is the rest of the UK doing this as well?

Scotland is the first part of the UK to introduce draft regulations on such a comprehensive list of items.  In England, recent restrictions have already been introduced on some items such as single-use plastic straws, beverage stirrers and cotton buds.  In Wales, a public consultation on market restrictions for the items listed in the Single-Use Plastics Directive was launched in August 2020. Northern Ireland must, as part of the UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement Northern Ireland Protocol, implement certain requirements set out in the Single-Use Plastics Directive; this includes the market restrictions for the items listed in these regulations. 

 

What about straws?

How can businesses purchase their stock of single-use plastic straws to ensure they can continue to provide access for those who require them to eat and drink independently or medical purposes?

Access to single-use plastic straws is being protected because alternatives, such as paper or reusable straws, are often not suitable or safe replacements.  Providing single-use plastic straws, in line with the exemptions, will support independent living, social inclusion and equal participation for people who need them to eat and drink.

When the regulations come into force on 1 June 2022, catering businesses, such as cafes and restaurants, will still be able to buy single-use plastic straws from manufacturers or wholesalers to give to individuals who require them to eat and drink independently. Those serving food and drink should ensure they retain a smaller stock of these products for this purpose. 

Pharmacies will be able to buy single-use plastic straws from manufacturers or wholesalers so individuals who need them, or someone on their behalf, can purchase them for use at home or elsewhere.

A small number of other establishments will also be able to purchase single-use plastic straws where they provide them to individuals who need them. This includes care homes, prisons, schools, early learning and childcare, day care and childminding premises.

Health professionals will be able to purchase single-use plastic straws to supply where required, this includes for use in hospitals and other medical settings.  

Wholesalers and suppliers are not prevented from supplying single-use plastic straws to those businesses and facilities identified above to ensure products are accessible in Scotland where required. 

There are certain conditions in the regulations relating to the supply of single-use plastic straws, for example making them available on request. The Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland have been working with disabled people and their organisations, to develop guidance that accompanies the final regulations, in addition to specific guidance on implementing the exemption for single-use plastic straws in a way which respects the dignity of those who need to access them. This further guidance will be available in due course. 

 

How will individuals who rely on single-use plastic straws access them?

The regulations provide a critical exemption to protect access to these straws for those who need them to eat and drink independently or for medical purposes. While alternatives to single-use plastic straws do exist, these are often not suitable or safe. 

From the point the regulations come into force, single-use plastic straws will still be available for those who need them from pharmacies – either in-store or from online pharmacies – and from businesses serving food or drink who can provide them to customers on request. 

Individuals who require them to eat or drink independently can also be supplied with a single-use plastic straw by care homes, prisons, schools, early learning and childcare, day care or childminding premises. Furthermore, they can also be supplied for medical purposes or for the purposes of personal care or personal support. This covers any person, not just professionals, in or outside a formal care home setting.

The Scottish Government has been working with disabled people and their organisations to develop guidance that accompanies the final regulations, in addition to specific guidance on implementing the exemption for single-use plastic straws in a way which respects the dignity of those who need to access them. Further guidance will be available in due course.

Are plates and bowls included?

Do the market restrictions apply to single-use plastic bowls?

Single-use plastic bowls are not included within the scope of these market restrictions. 

Food containers made specifically from expanded polystyrene are banned under these regulations, however, it has never been the intention for these market restrictions to prevent the sale or use of all single-use plastic food containers. Food containers are subject to action under Article 4 of the Single-Use Plastics Directive – consumption reduction measures.

Feedback from stakeholders highlighted that items described as bowls can be used interchangeably as food-containers. The Scottish Government has therefore decided single-use plastic bowls will be considered alongside food containers under forthcoming measures to reduce the consumption of these single-use items.

The Scottish Government has already consulted on the introduction of charges for the provision of items, such as single-use disposable items, that are harmful to the environment.  The Scottish Government intends to establish a working group to support the design of a charge for single-use beverage cups, including arrangements for monitoring its effectiveness. In addition, it will also consider how best to reduce consumption of on-the-go food containers which will involve various engagement activities with stakeholders in 2022.

Do the market restrictions apply to single-use plastic plates?

The regulations apply to single-use plastic plates. These items are considered to be predominantly flat dishes which typically have slightly bevelled or raised perimeters to stop food rolling off or spilling from them. They are designed/used for consuming or serving food at the point of sale and are not suitable for transporting food away. These items are sold without a lid, regardless of whether they are covered, e.g. by foil or film, at the point of sale.

The regulations apply to plates, which are made entirely from plastic, as well as those made partially from plastic, such as paper plates with a plastic lining.

The Scottish Government has published full guidance to accompany the final regulations which will explain the scope of the regulations and provide additional detail on how the regulations are to be implemented.

Close Search

Search form