Scotland re-introduces plans for 25p cup charge

The Scottish government has reintroduced plans for a 20-25p charge on all coffee cups and single use beverage containers.

A charge on single-use cups can encourage people to move to reusable alternatives

The pledge came in an announcement from the Scottish circular economy minister Lorna Slater today (31 March), who said an advisory group will be formed to shape plans for the mandatory charge to be introduced “during the course of this parliament”.

This reaffirms a pledge made in 2019 (see letsrecycle.com story), which Ms Slater said was delayed because of the pandemic.

The advisory group will consist of representatives from “every stage of the supply chain” and will aim to bring together manufacturers and distributors, retailers, consumer groups, environmental NGOs as well as equalities groups and academics.

The current parliament in Scotland runs until 2026.

Effectiveness

The impact of these charges has been debated.

A report by WRAP published last year said such schemes were “ineffective” at tackling coffee cup waste.

And, the Paper Cup Alliance, formed of group of coffee cup manufacturers, pounced on this ahead of the Scottish government announcement, saying it “proves that recycling is key”, and not charges.

A charge on single-use cups can encourage people to move to reusable alternatives (picture: Scottish Government)

However, the minister dismissed these concerns and said evidence shows that a small charge can be “hugely effective”.

The Minister said: “Lots of people already carry a reusable cup with them, but hundreds of millions of single-use cups are still being wasted every single year.

“Evidence shows that a small charge on single-use cups can be hugely effective in encouraging people to switch to a reusable alternative.

“I look forward to working with experts representing business, the environment, and consumers to take forward this important measure. Alongside Scotland’s deposit return scheme, which will recycle nearly two billion bottles and cans every year, and our action to ban some of the most problematic single-use plastics, this will make a vital contribution to reducing the amount of waste generated in the country.”

‘Welcome news’

According to Iain Gulland, Zero Waste Scotland’s chief executive, the organisation’s recent survey showed that 66% of Scots would support introducing charges to limit the use of single-use products.

He added: “Switching to reusable over single-use is one of the best things we can all do for the environment, so it’s hugely welcome news that work to shape a chargeable cup scheme is continuing with the formation of an advisory group.”

The introduction of between 20-25p charge for disposable cup was recommended by an Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures, chaired by Dame Sue Bruce.

Figures

The current estimate of 200 million disposable cups used in Scotland every year is predicted to rise to 310 million by 2025.

With an estimated 40,000 littered, Zero Waste Scotland estimates that they generate around 4,000 tonnes of waste each year.

Their waterproof plastic lining makes them difficult to recycle so most of them are sent for energy recovery or landfill.

As part of recently announced packaging reforms, larger coffee shops, fast food chains and others who sell drinks in disposable paper cups will have to provide a dedicated bin to collect and recycle these from 2024.

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