Changeworks and Zero Waste Scotland have launched the first wave of our ‘Ditching Disposables’ pilot, which will help a number of Scottish businesses to reduce and eliminate their reliance on single-use items.

In the first leg of the pilot, Changeworks will focus on businesses in the Portobello and Joppa areas of Edinburgh. Last year on Portobello beach, volunteers found an average of 262 plastic and polystyrene pieces for every 100m of beach surveyed during the Marine Conservation Society's Great British Beach Clean.

The drive coincides with the recent announcement from the Scottish Government that they will ban a wide range of single-use plastics items from June 2022. The new regulations include restrictions on plastic cutlery, drink stirrers, and food containers made from expanded polystyrene – items predominately found in cafes and hospitality businesses.

The legislation covers these plastic items made from both fossil-based and plant-based plastics regardless of whether they are recyclable, biodegradable or compostable. It also covers plastic items which contain recycled content.

In line with recommendations of the Expert Panel on Environmental Charges and Other Measures, the Ditching Disposables project will support organisations across Scotland to trial and implement sustainable alternatives to problematic single-use items. A common mistake, which businesses must avoid where possible, is to replace one disposable option with another one made from a different material.

Welcoming the pilot project, Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater MSP said:

“There is no longer any doubt that plastic waste is having a hugely damaging impact on our oceans, environment and climate.

“The Scottish Government supports a move away from the old-fashioned and environmentally destructive consumption model of take, make and consume.

“Lessons from this trial will be crucial in our efforts to reduce our reliance on single-use plastic and in our journey towards a circular economy that promotes re-use, repair and recycling.”

Take-out fish and chips for a stroll in the beach often come in wax-coated paper boxes, which have a carbon impact and cannot be easily recycled. However, many food outlets use them. St Andrew’s Takeaway is currently trialling innovative alternatives but, in the meantime, uses an estimated 10,800 disposable food containers a month. Over a year, this would have the same carbon cost as a return flight from Edinburgh to New York. If five percent of their customers switched to reusable food containers, it would save 100kg of carbon dioxide equivalent a year.

Alvaro Bernabeu, Owner of Malvarosa restaurant and member of the scheme, said:

“I don't see sustainability as a trend but the way forward. As a small business, we're doing what we can and want to play a part in changing attitudes. The recent ban on problematic single-use items by the Scottish Government is a very welcome step, but there isn’t enough guidance available to businesses on what is the most environmentally friendly alternative. I see this pilot as a really worthwhile exercise and I’m sure it’ll be very welcome by my customers.”