19 July 2019 by Lucy Pegg

Panel recommends Scottish disposable cup charge

A panel reporting to the Scottish government has recommended a 20-25p charge for single-use coffee cups to encourage the use of reusable cups.

The EPECOM panel has recommended that a 20-25p charge for single-use drinks cups be introduced

The Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures (EPECOM) has suggested it be made mandatory for drinks and disposable cups to be sold separately, including an initial minimum charge for the beverage container.

A charge of at least 20p would be needed to change the behaviour of 49% of the population, according to an academic literature review from the University of Cardiff, which was commissioned by the panel.

Around 200 million single-use disposable beverage cups are consumed each year in Scotland and without intervention this is projected to increase to 310 million by 2025, according to EPECOM’s report.

Single-use

Dame Sue Bruce, chair of the EPECOM panel, stated that as well as the charge, the group had a range of recommendations to help curb the use of disposable cups

She said: “Our overarching message is that social marketing and raising availability and awareness of the alternatives to single-use are vital.

“There needs to be a move away from single-use disposable beverage cups completely and not just to an improved model for recycling,” Dame Bruce added.

The Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures (EPECOM) was set up in May 2018 to advise Scottish ministers on charges which have the potential to encourage long-term and sustainable changes to consumer and producer behaviour.

“There needs to be a move away from single-use disposable beverage cups completely and not just to an improved model for recycling.”

Dame Sue Bruce, EPECOM chair

As well as introducing a charge for disposable cups, the report highlights the need for a “paradigm shift” to make reusable containers more accessible and convenient.

Retailers should encourage reuse at point of sale and single-use cups should be banned in settings where this is possible – such as workplaces or festivals – the Scottish panel believes. Trials to establish this culture should take place in significant locations in Scotland, potentially by the end of 2019.

Pricing

As well as legislation, EPECOM recommended that businesses be encouraged to put in place voluntary separate pricing to encourage behaviour change in anticipation of regulation.

The panel also suggested that the Scottish government consider an “ambitious” national consumption reduction target for single-use disposable beverage cups. It also supported banning the sale of non-recyclable expanded polystyrene/PVC cups by 2021, in line with EU Single-use Plastics Directive.

Though noting that the impact of a charge on smaller businesses must be considered, EPECOM said it was “keen that the needs of business and consumer groups are weighed against the current climate emergency”.

The review did note that though the cup charge would be effective and unlikely to affect hot drinks sales, the use of single-use disposable cups is more resistant to behavioural change than single-use carrier bags.

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