Resource Use

Zero Waste Scotland launches £1m project to ditch disposables

Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) has today (18 February) announced the launch of a £1-million pilot project to test alternatives to single-use disposable items.

With support from the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the ‘Ditching Disposables’ project will see more than a dozen organisations from across Scotland trial alternatives to single-use products, including reusable and packaging-free options, over the next 12 months.

The project will include a deposit return scheme (DRS) for reusable coffee cups in Edinburgh, Stirling and Thurso and Wick in the Highlands, combined with the introduction of charges for disposable cups – actions that have been proposed by the Scottish Government’s Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures (EPECOM)

Other initiatives will see single-use water bottles removed from sale and replaced with water fountains and cordial dispensers, whilst another will trial a reusable ‘event kit’ which will include reusable items, such as cups, to be used for community events.

Commenting on the project, ZWS Scotland Chief Executive Iain Gulland said: “We know single-use items are blighting communities across Scotland and it is something we are determined to tackle. Some of these are only used for a matter of minutes yet can hang around our environment for years. We are working with communities to see what can be done to solve issues they have identified.

“Four-fifths of our carbon footprint as a nation comes from the products and materials we consume. That’s a huge proportion, and single-use items are an entirely unnecessary part of that.

“Curbing our consumption habit is vital if we want to have a real impact on the climate emergency, so it’s fantastic to have so many organisations right across Scotland on board to look at what we can change to pioneer an alternative approach.”

Today’s announcement follows an initial closed pilot between ZWS and NHS Ayrshire and Arran, where reusable coffee cups and a ten pence charge for disposable cups were introduced in the canteen at University Hospital Crosshouse in Kilmarnock. As a result of this pilot, the reuse rate for coffee cups increased from one per cent to nearly half of all hot drink sales, whilst the volume of disposable cups consumed dropped by 157 per day – an estimated 57,000 per year.

Gulland explained: “This is a great example of how upscaling small changes can make a big difference. We know incentivising reuse works – and for businesses it’s a chance to respond directly to customer demand and open up new economic opportunities at the same time as cutting their carbon footprint.”

The Ditching Disposables project forms part of ZWS’s £73-million Resource Efficient Circular Economy Accelerator Programme, which aims to support circular economy and resource efficiency projects with support from the ERDF.

This programme also includes the ‘Action on Plastics’ initiative, which will invest £500,000 of funding in projects that propose innovative solutions to the plastics issue.

Boosting the circular economy

Placing the circular economy at the heart of its environmental strategy, the Scottish Government has revealed proposals for its upcoming Circular Economy Bill, which includes giving ministers the power to place charges on disposable items that are deemed harmful to the environment and increasing the minimum single-use carrier bag charge from five to 10 pence.

The Scottish Government has also announced plans to introduce a 20-25 pence charge for single-use cups, and is set to roll out its DRS for drinks containers in 2021.

Although concerns have been raised with regards to the impact that a DRS will have on kerbside recycling, research from ZWS suggests that the scheme will result in almost 11 million fewer plastic bottles littered every year in Scotland, with a survey showing that four in five Scots back the proposals.

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