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Everything you need to know about Scotland’s new single-use plastic ban

Single use containers stacked up in a takeaway shop in Aberdeen
Polystyrene boxes like these pictured in an Aberdeen takeaway in June are now banned.

New rules banning common single-use plastics come into force across Scotland from today.

It means that it will be an offence for businesses in Scotland to provide the items.

Scotland is the first UK nation to implement such legislation and idea behind it is to reduce the amount of plastic sent to landfill after just one use.

Here is everything you need to know about the new rules:

Single use plastic ban in scotland includes polystyrene containers like these
Polystyrene containers are one of the most commonly used single-use plastic items in Scotland.

What single-use plastics are now banned?

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

  • Cutlery (including forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks and other similar utensils)
  • Plates
  • Drink stirrers
  • Food containers made of expanded polystyrene
  • Cups made of expanded polystyrene
  • Straws
  • Balloon sticks

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

What if I need a plastic straw?

There is a specific exemption in place for people who need plastic straws to help them eat or drink independently, or for medical reasons.

They will still be able to purchase plastic straws in-store and online pharmacies and will be given on request in hospitality venues, but won’t be routinely available in supermarkets or other shops.

plastic straws
Plastic straws will still be available, but from pharmacies rather than supermarkets. Picture by Shutterstock.

Plastic straws can also still be accessed in hospitals, care homes, schools and childcare facilities.

The regulations also provide an exemption for single-use plastic balloon sticks, but only if they are used for industrial or professional uses.

What can be used instead?

The Scottish Government says it wants reusable alternatives to be the priority from now on, rather than just immediately substituting plastic for other throw-away materials.

For example, choosing metal cutlery which can be returned and reused rather than single-use cutlery even if it’s made of wood or other biodegradable materials.

Zero Waste Scotland says that “the problems caused by single-use items cannot be solved by replacing them with alternative single-use items made with different materials,” and that this is an opportunity to “think differently” about the way we live.

Is there a penalty if you continue using banned single-use plastics? What if you have lots of stock left?

According to the Scottish Government, failure to comply with the regulations carries a maximum fine of £5,000.

This does not apply to people who need plastic straws for medical reasons.

For businesses which have lots of stock leftover, there is no additional grace period.

The regulations were laid before the Scottish Parliament on 11 November 2021, and with more than six months between the regulations being laid and them coming into force on June 1, the government says businesses affected by the ban have had plenty time to prepare.

single us plastic ban scotland
Takeaway shops often use lots of single-use items.

However last month the P&J spoke to a variety of takeaway shops around Aberdeen that regularly use some of the now-banned items.

Several of them had lots of stock of polystyrene boxes and plastic cutlery in particular and were not aware of the upcoming ban.

Is your businesses in the same boat? Let us know in the comments section at the foot of this article

Why is Scotland pursuing this single-use plastic ban?

Around 700 million of the now-banned single-use items are used in Scotland every year.

The durability of plastic means items used for a few minutes can last for centuries in landfill or as litter in the countryside or ocean.

In addition to concerns for wildlife, constantly creating new plastic uses more raw materials, more energy and produces more CO2 emissions which contribute to climate change.

Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater said: “Every year, hundreds of millions of single-use plastic are wasted, with many of them littering our beaches, waters and parks.

“This ban will encourage businesses to make the switch to reusable alternatives, helping to reduce litter and cut emissions.”

Read more about the single-use plastic ban: