By Bruce Crawford MSP
First published in the Stirling Observer on 25th April, 2018.
Plastic has an impact on almost every aspect of our lives, however, single use plastic is a major contributor to polluting our land and poisoning our oceans.
David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II was a wake-up call for many consumers about the devastating effect plastic pollution has on delicate ecosystems.
Reducing the plastic we use is a huge task, but one that the Scottish Government is committed to.
Already, the Environment Secretary has announced plans to ban plastic-stemmed cotton buds in Scotland, building on recent steps to ban the sale of rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads.
However, we still have a massive challenge in tackling the amount of wet wipes, drinks containers, food packaging, and bottle caps that we throw away.
The Scottish Government’s 5p charge on plastic bags – introduced to shops in 2014 – saw an almost immediate 80% reduction of carrier bags being handed out. But more can be done.
This year, the Environment Secretary intends to consult on a range of options for a new Scottish deposit return system – including on the type of plastic containers it will collect.
Any new system will have to have a route through which drinks containers can be collected with minimal contamination for high value recycling. The Cabinet Secretary understands this and I look forward to the options she brings forward.
Elsewhere, we can reduce the single-use plastic we use by phasing out plastic straws where possible.
Places such as Wetherspoons have already done this by introducing paper straws – and this is certainly a positive step.
However, we must be mindful of the needs of certain groups. Paper straws are more environmentally friendly, but are no use for hot drinks and would therefore be unsuitable for some disabled people.
Striking a balance or offering alternatives will be key here going forward.
I have recently supported a local constituent from Callander who is campaigning with an innovative solution to single-use plastic at our sea sides with proposed Plastic Off Beaches Banks – a plastic refuse point that may go some way in addressing the problem of littering on our beaches.
In any case, we can all be mindful about what we use and what we throw away. Many coffee shops will fill up your own flask which reduces the need for throwaway cups that are lined with plastic, for example.
However, with a renewed consciousness about plastic pollution, I am both confident and hopeful that we achieve new and innovative ways of reducing that which we throw away.