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Global first is part of £1m plan to ditch disposables in Scottish communities

More than a dozen organisations across Scotland are to take part in a £1million pilot project testing alternatives to single-use disposable items.  

18 Feb 20

Zero Waste Scotland will deliver a total of 14 projects with a wide range of community partners over the next 12 months to tackle a range of single-use items, from coffee cups to water bottles and food packaging.  

Supported by the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the scheme will see organisations from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife, Caithness, Stirling, and East and West Lothian trial alternatives to single-use products – such as reusable and packaging-free options. 

The Ditching Disposables project will include a deposit return scheme for reusable coffee cups and separate charging for disposable cups across several Scottish towns and cities. Both of these actions have been highlighted as key ways to tackle consumption of single use cups by the Scottish Government’s Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures (EPECOM). 

The deposit return scheme for cups will see customers in some communities pay a small deposit when purchasing their drink that will be refunded when they return their reusable cup, so it can be washed and used again. It is believed to be the first time anywhere in the world that a deposit return scheme for reusable cups and separate charging for disposable cups have been run in tandem. 

Other projects will see single-use water bottles removed from sale and replaced with water fountains and cordial dispensers. Another will trial a reusable event kit to be shared between the community, and includes piloting reusable cups for drinks, for example, at music gigs. 

Zero Waste 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.” 

The projects announced today (Tuesday 18 February 2020) follow an initial closed pilot between Zero Waste Scotland and NHS Ayrshire & Arran, under which reusable coffee cups and a 10p charge for disposable cups were introduced in the canteen at University Hospital Crosshouse in Kilmarnock. 

These changes, along with improvements to recycling provision and signage, saw the reuse rate for coffee cups increase from 1% to nearly half of all hot drink sales. Meanwhile the volume of disposable cups consumed dropped by 157 per day – that’s an estimated 57,000 a year. 

The Ditching Disposables pilots will aim to achieve similar results in an open setting, with independent coffee shops across Thurso and Wick, Stirling, central Edinburgh and North Berwick offering reusable coffee cups for a deposit, which customers can drop back to any participating local café. Crucially, these trials will combine deposit reusable cups with a charge on disposable cups – believed to be the first time this has been trialled anywhere in the world.  

Iain Gulland continued: “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.” 

Ditching Disposables is part of Zero Waste Scotland’s Resource Efficient Circular Economy Accelerator Programme, which will invest £73m in circular economy and resource efficiency projects, thanks to support from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). 


Notes For Editors

The Ditching Disposables pilot projects are (by geographical area): 

  • Glasgow: Glasgow Connect Community Hub will be supported to remove single-use water bottles from sale and reduce their consumption through the provision of water fountains, cordial dispensers and reusable cups. A pop-up refill store will also be established to enable Easterhouse residents to access key food items with no packaging waste. 


  • Edinburgh: independent cafes and restaurants in Portobello and Joppa will receive support to reduce their use of disposable items such as cups, bottles, stirrers, sachets, straws and serving ware. A range of independent cafes and hospitality businesses in central Edinburgh will also pilot a deposit return coffee cup scheme, with potential to introduce a charge on disposable cups. 


  • East Lothian: both the Fringe by the Sea festival in North Berwick and community hubs in Dunbar will be supported to reduce their consumption of single-use items such as cups and bottles.  


  • Fife: Fife Pride will be supported to pilot a range of alternatives to disposable event items – such as flags and whistles - while the event bar will be supported to ditch disposable cups. Kirkcaldy Parks Half Marathon will tackle single-use bottles of water issued to competitors and incorporate other reusable items into the event organisation and dressing. Vendors at both events will be encouraged to reduce the use of disposable items. 


  • Stirling: a total of 18 independent cafes and hospitality businesses in the city centre will pilot a deposit return coffee cup scheme alongside a charge on disposable cups. Meanwhile, the Tolbooth music venue will receive support to switch to reusable cups for live events, and Stirling Castle will be supported to reduce the sale of single-use water bottles through the provision of water dispensers and reusable water bottles.  


  • West Lothian: a ‘community events kit’ will be established and held centrally in Linlithgow to be used year-round by a range of annual events in the town. The kit will also include reusable items for individuals to borrow for events, such as weddings and parties, and will be available to rent through Linlithgow Tool Library online. 


  • Highland: a range of independent cafes and hospitality businesses in Thurso and Wick will be supported to pilot a deposit return coffee cup scheme alongside a charge on disposable cups. A Caithness employer of 100 staff will also be supported to pilot ways to reduce single-use items in the workplace, while the Mey Games and Taste North will receive support to reduce their use of single-use items such as cups, bottles, stirrers, sachets. In addition, Urquhart Castle will receive support to reduce its use of single-use items at whisky tastings.  

The full report on Zero Waste Scotland’s reusable cups trial with NHS Ayrshire & Arran is available to download at www.sustainabilityaction.scot.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/ZWS1410-NHS-cup-trial-report-V2.pdf  

The Expert Panel on Environmental Charges and Other Measures (EPECOM) exists to provide advice to Scottish ministers on charging and other measures to encourage more sustainable production and consumption of products. In July 2019 the panel produced a series of recommendations to tackle the issue of single-use cups. Further information on the panel is available on the Scottish Government website

About Zero Waste Scotland 

Zero Waste Scotland exists to lead Scotland to use products and resources responsibly, focusing on where we can have the greatest impact on climate change.   

Using evidence and insight, our goal is to inform policy, and motivate individuals and businesses to embrace the environmental, economic, and social benefits of a circular economy.   

We are a not-for-profit environmental organisation, funded by the Scottish Government and European Regional Development Fund. 

More information on all Zero Waste Scotland’s programmes can be found at https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/. You can also keep up to date with the latest from Zero Waste Scotland via our social media channels - Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn 

The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds 2014-20 Programme. For further information visit our website or follow @scotgovESIF.  

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