Charges on single-use cups to be introduced in Scotland

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An advisory group will be formed in Scotland to shape plans for mandatory charges on coffee cups and other single-use disposable beverage containers, Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater has announced.

Work to tackle single-use cup waste is re-starting, having been paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The charge is expected to come into effect during the course of this parliament.

The group will contain representatives from every stage of the supply chain – from manufacturers and distributors through small and large retailers – as well as consumer groups, environmental NGOs, equalities groups and academics.

The Circular Economy Minister commented on the announcement: “Single-use coffee cups are a classic example of the throwaway culture that we are taking action to tackle.

“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.”

Due to their waterproof plastic lining, single-use cups can be hard to recycle, resulting in most of them being incinerated or sent to 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.

Charging for single-use cups is set to help encourage people to make the move to reusable alternatives and support the shift to a more circular economy.

An Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures, chaired by Dame Sue Bruce, recommended the introduction of a national, mandatory requirement to sell beverages and disposable cups separately, including an initial minimum price of between 20-25p per cup.

An estimated 200 million single-use disposable beverage cups are used every year in Scotland, with this figure expected to rise to 310 million by 2025, with Zero Waste Scotland estimating that they generate around 4,000 tonnes of waste each year.

An estimated 40,000 disposable cups are also littered in Scotland each year.