Campaigners are calling for more ambition as the Scottish Government announces the formation of an advisory group on charges on disposable coffee cups. Work on disposable cup charges was paused two years ago due to the pandemic. 

Disposable cups are a small part of Scotland’s overall material footprint. Scotland consumed 100 million tonnes of materials in 2017, and must reduce this by 57% to become environmentally sustainable. Removing disposable cups completely would be less than 0.01% (4,000 tonnes) of the change that is needed.

Kim Pratt, circular economy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland said “Disposable cups are a symbol of our linear economy that we need to move away from, but we simply do not have the time to change our economy one product at a time. The Scottish Government must go further and faster on this, and it needs to use the charge introduction to learn lessons that can be applied more widely.

“Over-consumption is causing the climate crisis, and changing our culture of consumption is a key part of the solution. The Circular Economy Bill, which is being consulted on by the Scottish Government in May, is a vital opportunity to make the whole system change that is needed.”

82% of Scotland’s carbon footprint relates to material consumption. From buildings and transport to food and clothing, we use materials in a linear way: extracting raw materials, making them into products, using them (sometimes only once) and throwing them away to be burnt or buried. Cutting our material consumption to sustainable levels will support Scotland to reach its climate goals.

Zero Waste Scotland, Expert Panel on Environmental Charging and Other Measures


Zero Waste Scotland, disposable cups study


Scottish Government press release on the bill and consultation:


Zero Waste Scotland Material Flow Accounts, including Scotland’s per person material consumption: https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/sites/default/files/ZWS1658%20Intro%20Scottish%20MFA%20doc%20v7_0.pdf 

Lettenmeier et al (2014), sustainable material footprint is 8t per person per year https://www.mdpi.com/2079-9276/3/3/488/htm