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Survey highlights Scots’ concerns over single-use plastics

YouGov poll shows impact on marine environment and litter as top concerns 

30 Nov 20

A survey has revealed the concern Scots have around single-use plastic items and packaging and that 66% would support introducing charges, similar to the carrier bag charge, to cut down their use.  

The poll for Zero Waste Scotland highlights that reducing harm to the marine environment was cited by 89% of those backing an additional charge as the reason for their support. This was followed by reducing litter (87%) and to help stop/reduce climate change (81%). 

Other views included conserving natural resources (77%) and to protect biodiversity (75%). 

The survey, carried out by YouGov, comes as the Scottish Government consults on its latest steps to reduce the use of single-use items and introduce market restrictions on items most commonly found on beaches in Europe, including plastic cutlery and plastic straws. 

Iain Gulland, Zero Waste Scotland chief executive, said: “It is clear from these results that people are worried about the impact single-use plastic items have on our environment. These items can last for decades and the damage they can cause to wildlife is shocking. We have to find ways to cut down the stream of items we are sending into what should be pristine habitats and the consultation offers a valuable way for people to contribute to the discussion around market restrictions.” 

Views are being sought on the introduction of new legislation to restrict the supply of single-use plastic plates, plastic straws, plastic cutlery, expanded polystyrene food and drink containers, beverage stirrers, plastic balloon sticks and products made from oxo-degradable plastics. Reusable alternatives would continue to be widely available. 

These are the most common items found on European beaches and were identified in the EU Single Plastics Directive as contributing the majority share of litter found in the marine environment. The Marine Conservation Society’s 2020 Great British Beach Clean reported an average over 100m of beach surveyed in Scotland 297.9 items of litter (of which 183.6 were plastic items). Six of the top 10 items found are recognised under the EU Single use plastic directive.  

Catherine Gemmell, Scotland conservation officer for the Marine Conservation Society, said: “Our volunteers have been on the frontline dealing with single-use plastic and other litter washing up on beaches around Scotland for over two decades. We have to stop single-use plastic at its source.  

“It's encouraging to see so many people in this survey link the single-use plastic issue to the negative impact it has on Scottish seas and wildlife. Now, we're asking them to go one step further and respond to the Scottish Government consultation and add their support for banning several single-use plastic items. We hope the Scottish Government will take swift action and bring in further measures to move Scotland towards a circular economy where nothing is wasted or thrown away, negatively impacting our seas and beaches.” 

Barry Fisher, CEO of Keep Scotland Beautiful, said: “Single-use plastic items are extremely damaging to our environment, blighting our landscapes as litter, polluting our rivers and seas, and contributing to higher greenhouse gas emissions. 

“Our Upstream Battle campaign has shown that plastic, much of it single-use, makes up almost half of all litter in rivers and streams in the Clyde Valley, which ultimately ends up in our seas. 

“So, we are very pleased to see the Scottish Government consulting on banning a range of single-use plastic items – we wholeheartedly support the proposals in the consultation paper. 

“We are also encouraged that Scottish Government are asking, as part of the consultation, if there are other single-use items which should be banned and we will be pushing for this to include plastic cigarette filters and wet wipes containing plastic.” 

According to Scottish Government figures around four fifths (80%) of Scotland’s carbon footprint comes from all the goods, materials and services that we produce, use and often throw out after minimal use¹. 

Part of the consultation process is to understand how access can be maintained for people who require items that perform a vital function that cannot be easily replaced. For example, straws may be required for medical use or to support independent living. 

The Single Use Plastic Directive Consultation closes on 4 January 2021. 

For more details visit - https://consult.gov.scot/zero-waste-delivery/introducing-market-restrict...


Notes For Editors

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1004 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 29 September and 1 October 2020.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scotland adults aged 18+. 

Those surveyed were asked:  

  • Please imagine that customers were to be charged an extra fee (i.e. in addition to the price of the item), for the use of ANY single-use plastic items (e.g. extending the 5p for carrier bags to items such as plastic coffee cups, etc.)... To what extent do you support or oppose this idea? 
  • You previously said you would Strongly/ Tend to support the idea of customers being charged an extra fee for the use of single-use plastic items... Which, if any, of the following are reasons why you would support this? (Please select all that apply): To help reduce litter, To help stop/ reduce climate change, To protect biodiversity (i.e. variety of life on Earth), To reduce harm to the marine environment, To conserve natural resources, Other, Don’t know.  
  • Around four fifths (80%) of Scotland’s carbon footprint comes from all the goods, materials and services which we produce, use and often throw out after minimal use (Scotland’s Carbon Footprint, 2015). 

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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