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Single-use plastics: new laws come into force June 2022*

The new regulations on single-use plastics have been laid before the Scottish Parliament and are coming into force on 01 June 2022*.

After this date,  the single-use plastic items listed below will be banned unless an exemption applies. 

The introduction of market restrictions on certain single-use plastics is another exciting step forward in tackling our throwaway culture and the shift towards a circular economy in Scotland.

The new regulations from the Scottish Government published on 11 November 2021 mean that some problematic single-use plastic items (listed below)  are banned from June 2022*. This follows the publication of draft regulations in March 2021 and a twelve-week public consultation on the issue, which ended in January 2021. A report with findings from the public consultation is available.

The regulations mean that market restrictions (effectively a ban) will be imposed on problematic single-use plastic items which are most commonly found as marine litter in Europe and affected businesses have until June 2022* to prepare for the new restrictions.  

The items which are restricted

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;

All the restrictions apply to both online and in-store sales, whether they are free or charged for.

For more information on the items included within the restrictions, please see our FAQs page . 

Exemptions and exclusions to the rules

The public consultation and further stakeholder engagement helped to understand the implications of the planned measures and whether any exemptions are required.  

Single-use plastic straw exemption

A critical exemption is applied to single-use plastic straws, to ensure those who need them to eat or drink independently or for medical purposes can still get access to them.  This means that single-use plastic straws are to be available to purchase at in-store or online pharmacies and given on request in hospitality venues. They are also to be available for those who need them in a small number of other places such as hospitals, care homes, schools, early learning/childcare premises and prisons. Furthermore single-use plastic straws can be supplied where they are a medical device, used for medical purposes, used as packaging or by any person providing personal care or support.

Balloon sticks

It is also still possible to use single-use plastic balloon sticks for industrial or professional uses where they are not handed out to consumers, for example by an events company to decorate an event provided the balloon sticks are not distributed to the attendees at the event.

Getting ready for the new legislation

Now that the final regulations have been published, businesses affected by the changes have time to prepare for the new laws coming into force and are encouraged to think about managing stock levels of the banned items, in order to avoid waste. We would encourage businesses to be proactive and start shifting to alternatives (such as reusable items) so their single-use plastics stock is used up when regulations come into force on 1 June 2022*.

When switching to single-use plastics substitutes, businesses should consider this:  banning single-use plastic items can be a big win for some environmental impacts, such as the marine environment, however simply switching to other single-use items made of alternative materials can lead to other environmental impacts. This is why businesses may wish to think about how reusables could fit into their operations and where this is not possible, ensure that single-use substitutes are carefully considered. 

This is an opportunity for industry to think differently and only offer single-use items where absolutely required, making cost savings and helping to fight the climate emergency.  We can make the most positive impact on the planet by shifting from single-use to reusables wherever possible and there are high levels of public support for this shift.  A majority 77% of people living in Scotland are concerned about the amount of single-use plastic and single-use packaging we use in Scotland. 

Looking ahead

This landmark plastics legislation marks another exciting step on Scotland’s move away from single-use items and provides an opportunity to highlight how transition to a circular economy can help address the climate crisis we are all facing.

For example, 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, the Scottish Government will also consider how best to reduce consumption of on-the-go food containers which will involve various engagement activities with stakeholders in 2022*. 

Led by Defra, there is a UK-wide approach to develop an extended producer responsibility scheme for packaging.  A consultation on this ran earlier in 2021. This scheme will support the Scottish Government’s agenda to improve the collection, recycling and recyclability of plastic and other packaging not covered by these single-use plastics market restrictions.  

If you have any questions on the new regulations, please check our FAQs  in the first instance.

Should you wish to keep up-to-date with our work on single-use plastics, please sign up to receive news updates.

* Subject to the UK Internal Market Act 2020 

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