SCOTLAND is on the cusp of opening a major facility to recycle disposable plastics amid a new commitment for Scotland to phase out their use.
The Scottish Government said today that it plans to at least match EU ambitions to stop the use of environment trashing items such as non reusable or recyclable plastic knifes, forks, cups, stirrers and straws by 2030.
Now Zero Waste Scotland has revealed it is in advance talks for a recycling hub to open, with calls by campaigners for a takeover of the Grangemouth petrochemical factory owned by Ineos.
Iain Gulland, CEO of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “We are currently working with a couple of companies who are interested in building facilities here in Scotland to look at plastic recycling. Some of that is quite innovative technology.
“We haven’t made them public because we haven’t made offers to these companies in terms of funding, but there are a number of those things coming through as we speak.”
“We will see new plastics reprocessing facilities starting to be built in Scotland in 2018 and I think that’s a combination of investment being available to these companies and the policy environment we’re working in in Scotland, which is very positive and people seeing we are wanting to take action on plastics.”
He added: “One thing that Blue Planet taught us is the time for action is now. We need to start making strides now.”
His comments came as part of an interview published today, with Scotland’s environment minister Roseanna Cunningham who said she wants the nation to match the EU’s pledge to make all plastic packaging recyclable or reusable within 12 years.
She told the Sunday Herald: “We want to mirror the EU commitment where it is practicably and legally possible for us to do it. I’ve asked our officials to look at these item by item.
“The first question I asked was, if we can do this for cotton buds why can’t we do this for other items? The response I got was we can’t just do it as a list, we have to look at it item by item.”
Among the potential obstacles to factor in are Scotland’s relationship and legal bids with the UK Government, and what issues Brexit could throw up.
“There is possibility open to actually ask the UK to do an order that would allow us to do things,” Cunningham said.
“That’s where the issue is. We have limited taxation powers. This kind of tax is where you’d have to be looking quite carefully at what the power of the devolved parliament was. We would certainly want to go ahead and do things.
“If the UK Government, for example, chose to tax single-use coffee cups that would apply right across the UK.”
Dr Richard Dixon. Director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, told Planet Scotland that he thought the Scottish Government had been making “great strides” on the issue.
He cited the plastic bag charge and recently announced ban on plastic cotton buds as sure signs of progress.
And he said: “The new commitment to be part of the European phase out of single use plastics by 2030, Brexit or no Brexit, is the strongest possible statement that we are serious about getting rid of plastic.”
Earlier this month Theresa May committed the UK to a 25-year environment plan to eradicate “avoidable plastic waste” by 2042, a timescale critics said was ridiculous, she now comes under pressure to match Scotland’s moves.
However Dr Dixon saved his harshest criticism for Ineos at Grangemouth. The firm is currently seeking legal action over a ScotGov decision to prevent the controversial gas process of fracking from happening in Scotland.
Now Friends of the Earth Scotland says the ban, allied with a crackdown on petrol and diesel pollution and now bans on plastic waste, could be an opportunity to make Scotand not only greener, but significantly re-skilled.
He said: “”After the disappointment of the recent lacklustre UK environment plan Theresa May’s government should match this commitment for much more rapid action on plastic.”
“At the same time as the public has become acutely conscious of the awful consequences of our wasteful use of plastics, Ineos plan to make even more here in Scotland.
“A much more sensible plan for the skilled work force at the Grangemouth installations would be to create there the plastics recycling plant that Scotland urgently needs.
“The Scottish Government should take a lead in making this transition happen.”
“As well as Scottish Government action on carrier bags, cotton buds and drinks’ cans and bottles, there is already community activity on phasing out plastic straws, in France there is a ban on plastic cutlery, cups and plates and the world’s biggest market China banned thin single use plastic bags in 2008.”
Mark Ruskell, the Scottish Greens environment spokesman, has already raised the issue and reiterated: “Signing up to the progressive EU agenda oS plastics should be the minimum action that is taken by both UK and Scottish Governments.”
WANT TO LEARN MORE? Read: A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy