Environmental campaigners say it is now “imperative” that the Scottish Government acts quickly to ban single-use plastic items.
Friends of the Earth Scotland warned that delaying a ban by even six months could result in hundreds of millions more items such as straws and disposable cutlery ending up in landfill.
The organisation called on ministers to act at the end of a Scottish Government consultation which looked at the possibility of introducing restrictions on single use plastic items such as cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and balloon sticks.
Friends of the Earth Scotland campaigner Sarah Moyes insisted the response from the public “clearly shows that people are concerned about plastic pollution in Scotland and want to see action to tackle these persistent polluters”.
She added: “The knife and fork we use for a quick bite to eat shouldn’t endure beyond our lifetime sitting in landfill for hundreds of years.
“Plastic pollutes at every stage of its life cycle from the oil and gas extracted to produce it, to the end products which litter our environment.”
Scots use an estimated 300 million plastic straws, 276 million pieces of plastic cutlery, 50 million plastic plates and 66 million polystyrene food containers every year, figures published by the Scottish Government show.
Ministers have already committed to meeting a European Union directive to introduce restrictions on the sale of some of the most environmentally harmful single-use plastic products by July 2021.
That pledge was included in the Nicola Sturgeon’s 2019-20 Programme for Government
But plans for a Circular Economy Bill, which would have included measures to cut litter, were put on hold amidst the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
Despite the pandemic, Ms Moyes said it was “imperative” that the Scottish Government move quickly to end the use of single-use plastics – though exemptions could be put in place for products such as plastic straws provided for medical use and to support independent living.
The Friends of the Earth Scotland campaigner said: “Even a delay of just six months will lead to hundreds of millions of extra pieces of disposable plastic circulating in Scotland.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “There is no longer any doubt that plastic waste is having a hugely damaging impact on our oceans, rivers and land ecosystems.
“We are fully committed to reducing our reliance on single-use plastic and are driving forward moves towards more sustainable, environmentally-friendly alternatives.
“However, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important that the introduction of these measures is carefully considered and we will be looking at the responses to the consultation and publishing our findings shortly.”