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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. This is subject to the UK Internal Market Act 2020 and the Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Scotland) Regulations 2021

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. Certain businesses are able to make plastic straws available on request in line with this exemption, eg in the hospitality sector.

It will 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 about this ban and its exemptions. These single-use plastics regulations Frequently Asked Questions provide a useful overview.

You can also refer to these Frequently Asked Questions about exemptions specifically

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 10 items found littered on Scottish beaches contain plastics.

20 million bottles are thrown away as litter each year. 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. That's about 7 million a day in the UK. 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 by swapping single-use plastics with reusable alternatives. Try some of our top tips:

  • choose products that are returnable, re-usable, or refillable
  • remember to use reusable water bottles and coffee cups
  • use Refill to connect to places to eat, drink and shop with less waste
  • put sandwiches and leftovers in re-usable containers instead of cling film
  • by using reusable cutlery, 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
  • choose responsibly sourced products and don't forget your re-usable shopping bags
  • buy concentrated/condensed products like diluting juice or fabric softener
  • choose one large container instead of multiple small ones to make up the same quantity
  • ask yourself, can I recycle or compost this?
Items banned in Scotland and list of alternatives
Items banned in ScotlandAlternatives

Plastic cutlery (knives, forks, spoons, chopsticks)

Reusable cutlery, bamboo cutlery, or bring your own

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

Shopping sustainably and asking the businesses to supply sustainable goods can make an impact. 

North Ayrshire environmental groups

Join an organisation protecting our environment and promoting sustainability. We work in partnership with the following groups which welcome new members:

Environmental groups in North Ayrshire can request to be added to this list by emailing Waste Awareness.

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

In 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 including:

  • sourcing over 50 alternatives to single-use plastics across school dining and cafes
  • plastic free period products provided in schools, council buildings and community venues
  • biodegradable sacks and liners used for food waste collection
  • drinking water taps installed in council offices
  • incentives for employees, like a re-usable mug when buying drinks from Cunninghame House Café resulted in 90% of customers using a re-usable mug
  • larger, refillable cleaning product containers are now used to reduce plastic waste, with a reduction of 6 to 1 achieved
  • recycling of plastic by North Ayrshire Council has increased by 30% since 2019, that's over 35 tonnes of plastic material every working week

Ongoing steps include:

  • 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
  • building upon work to support and collaborate with local environmental groups to progress the move towards becoming a 'Plastic Free Council' by 2022

Read more in our Plastic Smart case studies.

Watch a video on Eliminating Plastic from the Isle of Arran.

The work on problematic single-use plastic items continues:

The Scottish Government has begun work to inform future policy development on other single-use products and includes: 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.