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Reducing Plastic Use

Scotland's single-use plastic ban will be exempt from the UK Internal Market Act from 12 August 2022, allowing Scotland’s plastic ban to be fully effective, banning the most problematic and most environmentally damaging single-use plastic items.

On 1 June 2022, a ban on some of the most problematic and most environmentally damaging single-use plastic items will come into effect in Scotland.*

The ban will apply to the sale or supply of the following single-use items: plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks), plates, straws, beverage stirrers, balloon sticks, food containers made of expanded polystyrene and cups and other beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene, including their covers and lids. 

The legislation includes exemptions for single-use plastic straws to ensure that those who need them for independent living or medical purposes can still get access to them. Plastic straws can be obtained from pharmacies for people that need them, and certain businesses are able to make plastic straws available on request in line with this exemption, e.g. in the hospitality sector.

It will also still be possible to use single-use plastic balloon sticks for industrial or professional use as long as they are not handed out to customers.

Find more single-use plastic information relating to this ban and its various exemptions via Zero Waste Scotland. These single-use plastics regulations FAQs provide a useful overview.

You can also refer to these FAQs about exemptions specifically

*Subject to the UK Internal Market Act 2020 and the Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Scotland) Regulations 2021

Plastic Smart: Let's reduce single-use


Over 80% of Scotland’s carbon footprint comes from things we throw away.

Nine out of the top ten items found littered on Scottish beaches contain plastics.

20 million bottles are thrown away as litter each year and around 550 tonnes of plastic from littering (110 million pieces) end up on the seabed. Plastic bottles can take 450 years to decompose.

Around 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK alone, which equates to 7 million a day. Less than 1% of these can be recycled and can take 30 years to degrade.

Even worse, plastic straws and stirrers can take up to 200 years to decompose.

What can you do?

We can all do our bit to reduce problematic litter and damage to the environment by swapping single-use plastics for alternatives.

Next time you pick up a bottle of water or a takeaway coffee for example, stop and think; can its use be avoided, or can it be replaced with a reusable or alternative option? We can all make simple easy sustainable choices, why not try out some of our top tips?

  • Choose products that are returnable, re-usable, or refillable over single-use items
  • Remember to use reusable water bottles and coffee cups
  • Use the refill.org.uk website or App to find free water refill stations nearby, receive discounts on your coffee if you bring your own cup and find places you take your own lunchbox to get food on the go
  • Put your sandwiches and leftovers in re-usable containers rather than cling film which can’t be recycled
  • Use your own or reusable cutlery. By doing so, you could personally save 466 items of unnecessary plastic every year
  • If you don’t need a plastic straw or stirrer then don’t use them, ask for a paper straw instead
  • When you go shopping, choose products that have been responsibly sourced and produced and take your own re-usable shopping bags
  • Buy concentrated/condensed products to reduce the amount of plastic bottles and containers produced e.g. diluting juice and fabric softener
  • Go large as it uses less plastic to produce a large container than several smaller ones that make up the same capacity
  • Ask yourself, can I recycle or compost this?
Items banned and alternatives
Items banned in Scotland from 1 June 2022Alternative Reusable/Recyclable/ Compostable Products

Plastic cutlery (knives, forks, spoons & chopsticks)

Reusable cutlery or bring your own, bamboo cutlery

Plastic plates

Traditional tableware, paper, metal or bamboo plates

Plastic straws

Reusable straws: paper, glass, stainless steel, bamboo or silicone

Plastic beverage stirrers

Metal or wooden beverage stirrers

Plastic balloon sticks

Cardboard balloon holder

Food containers and cups made of expanded polystyrene (including covers and lids)

Reusable cups and containers, reusable wraps/silicone bags, cardboard containers and lids

Find out more about how you can make more sustainable choices.

Shopping sustainably and asking the businesses where you shop to supply sustainable goods can make an impact. If you are a business, you can once again find useful information from Zero Waste Scotland.

If you are interested in joining an organisation protecting our environment and promoting sustainability in North Ayrshire, the Council works in partnership with local environmental groups (PDF, 60kb) which always welcome new members.

What we are doing at North Ayrshire Council: Plastic Free Council by 2022

On 19 June 2018, Cabinet approved the Plastic Waste Prevention Action Plan to progress the Council to move towards becoming a “Plastic Free Council” by 2022.

So far, a range of measures have been implemented to remove single-use plastics from Council operations including:

  • Facilities Management have sourced over 50 alternatives to single-use plastics across school dining and cafes including paper straws, compostable packaging and cutlery, recyclable food packaging and biodegradable tableware
  • Plastic free period products are provided in schools, Council buildings and community venues
  • Biodegradable sacks and liners are used for the collection of food waste
  • Drinking water taps have been installed in Council offices to reduce the need for staff to use single-use plastic bottles
  • Incentives were offered to staff using a re-usable mug when purchasing drinks from Cunninghame House Café (Resulting in 90% of customers using a re-usable mug)
  • Larger, refillable cleaning product containers are now used to reduce the creation of plastic waste, with a reduction of 6 to 1 achieved
  • Recycling of plastic by North Ayrshire Council has increased by 30% since 2019. We now recycle over 35 tonnes of plastic material every working week

Ongoing steps include:

  • Ensuring Council staff are provided with sustainable procurement guidance and implementing a system to stop the purchase of Single-Use Plastics
  • Working with suppliers to further reduce plastic usage and ensure that sustainable alternatives can be provided
  • Working with external partners to continually develop and publish information and guidance on sustainable products composting and recycling to keep our residents, schools, staff and local businesses informed
  • Building upon work to support and collaborate with local environmental groups to progress the Council to move towards becoming a "Plastic Free Council" by 2022

Read more on the work happening across North Ayrshire to reduce plastic in our Plastic Smart case studies.

The work on problematic single-use plastic items continues:

The Scottish Government has commenced work to inform future policy development on other single-use products, including single-use plastic items and single-use food products including: single-use food containers, plastic bowls, trays and platters, plastic sachets e.g. condiment sachets used in hospitality settings and plastic packaging on fruit and vegetables. This work complements the Scottish Government's efforts to tackle other single-use plastic products, including single-use beverage cups and wet wipes containing plastic which have recently commenced.

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