Scots suffer mounting anxiety over plastic litter as shops refuse to refill amid Covid contamination fears
Scots are increasingly fearful about mounting piles of plastic pollution littering the countryside and oceans and want more action to tackle the problem, according to new research.
It’s thought new appreciation of nature and the outdoors, driven by the Covid crisis, has brought the issue to the forefront of people’s minds.
A survey by environmental groups City to Sea and Friends of the Earth has revealed that seven out of 10 people in Scotland have been experiencing feelings of anxiety, frustration or hopelessness about the amount of plastic that comes with their shopping.
Three in five of those polled said they would like to do more to reduce plastic use, but their efforts were often being thwarted.
The findings suggests retailers have been refusing to fill up customers’ own containers, particularly during the pandemic.
Two in five people said they had been forced to buy items such as takeaway coffee in a disposable cup over the past 12 months due to contamination fears.
Plastic pollution is a growing environmental problem, despite increasing public awareness of the issue.
Now campaigners are calling on leaders to listen to public concerns by putting ‘refill and reuse’ at the heart of society’s recovery from the coronavirus.
Sarah Moyes, plastic and circular economy campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, 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 over-consumption of resources.”
Jo Morley, City to Sea’s campaigns manager and project lead for it Refill network app, said: “We need to see governments, brands and big businesses put action behind the words that have long promised to tackle the plastics crisis we face.
“We need to stop single-use plastic at source and prioritise reduction and reuse over recycling – which we know isn’t working.”
She added: “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.”
More than 300 million tonnes of new plastic is produced globally each year, with up to half of that used only once before being thrown away.
Up to 12 million tonnes of it ends up in oceans, killing around 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds annually.
Evidence suggests just 10 products – including coffee cups, plastic bottles and takeaway containers – make up three quarters of plastic rubbish on beaches and in rivers worldwide.
Around 16 million plastic bottles and seven million disposable cups are chucked out every day in the UK alone.