New polling has shown very high levels of concern among Scottish adults about plastic pollution, with 60% actively trying to do more to reduce the amount they use. However, 40% have had a reusable container refused in the last year, making it harder to take action. 

The plastic problem

Despite a massive increase in public awareness over recent years, plastic pollution remains a growing environmental problem. Globally, we now produce over 300 million tonnes of plastic every year – up to half of which is single use. Packaging from take-away food and drinks, including items like coffee cups, plastic bottles and take-away containers are consistently the most polluting items on beaches and in rivers around the world. It’s now understood that just 10 plastic products make up 75% of all marine pollution and scientists say the pollution must be stopped at source.

Move to reuse

The good news is, the most polluting items are also some of the easiest to replace with reusable alternatives. According to a new poll undertaken by City to Sea and Friends of the Earth to mark World Refill Day (16th June 2021), 68% of people in the Scotland would like to see more refill options, for things like dried foods, laundry detergents, and take-away coffees, so they can limit the amount of single-use plastic in their lives.

Despite initial hesitancy about accepting reusables like coffee cups at the height of the pandemic, leading experts say they are safe to use in hospitality settings providing basic hygiene guidance is followed. City to Sea has produced comprehensive guidance for businesses on how to accept reusable cups, bottles, and take-away containers in a covid safe way. 

The pandemic has also brought the issue of littering to the forefront of people’s minds as spending time in nature has become more important than ever. 

Government action

We are calling on the government to listen to the public’s concerns, by putting refill and reuse at the heart of recovery from the pandemic, and bring forward the Circular Economy Bill with targets to reduce the emissions produced in creating everything we consume.

With hundreds of Refill Stations already listed on the Refill App in Scotland, City to Sea is asking the public to help them log even more locations, including those offering refill for things like take-away food and shopping. 

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Plastic and Circular Economy Campaigner, Sarah Moyes, said:

“It’s clear that people in Scotland want more action to tackle plastic pollution, especially making refillable options more widely available.

“Plastic pollution is an environmental emergency which has only got worse due to the pandemic with a resurgence in single-use plastics. It’s vital that as we recover, we see strong political action to prevent us reversing the positive long-term gains we have already secured in the battle against plastic pollution.

“As COP26 approaches, we need the Scottish Government to tackle plastic pollution head on by implementing the ban on single-use plastic items and Deposit Return Scheme this year, and bringing forward the Circular Economy Bill to drive us towards higher reuse and repair and curb our accelerating overconsumption of resources.”

Jo Morley, City to Sea’s Campaigns Manager and project lead for Refill, said:

“This World Refill Day, we’re encouraging everyone to take small steps to live with less plastic and find out what they can refill and reuse. As a global movement, we have the power to create a wave of change and as individuals, our small changes really do add up. By choosing to reuse, we’re saving millions of pieces of plastic and sending a message to the rest of the world that the solutions to plastic pollution and the climate crisis are there – and together we can keep our environment, oceans, cities and communities plastic-free for the future”.