Council to phase out single use plastics
Council has agreed a number of recommendations to include the phasing out of single use plastics from its sites and schools in an effort to exceed statutory requirements, at its meeting on 28 June. The recommendations also include working with partners and raising awareness with communities on this issue.
Within Scotland and the UK, there is now widespread understanding and acceptance that single use plastics have a detrimental impact on our wider environment.
Within Council Headquarters, plastic cups were removed from nearly all water dispensers some years ago and the coffee machine with polystyrene cups has also now been removed from the Chamber area. Alternatives are being explored in respect of replacing single use plastics elsewhere in the Council and both staff and Members are being encouraged to bring their own reusable cups and bottles to minimise plastic waste.
The majority of plastic currently produced can be recycled. However, the extent to which plastics are recycled depends upon various technical, economic and logistical factors. Single Use Plastics make up a significant proportion of waste ending up in landfill or in the natural environment and can take hundreds of years or more to degrade. The Highland Council recognises that discarded plastics, including non-recyclable cups, bottles and straws, are a major environmental pollutant and of detrimental impact to the Highland region and its communities. Highland, as the local authority with the longest coastline in Scotland (at 4,905 kilometres), has a key role to play in reducing plastic waste.
The Highland Council is also supportive of initiatives led by local communities, such as the ban of plastic straws by the village of Ullapool. Pupils from Ullapool Primary campaigned successfully for all 14 cafes, bars and restaurants in Ullapool to be officially free of plastic straws from December 2017. The local supermarket plans to follow suit during 2018.
Vice Chair of Environment, Development and Infrastructure Councillor Trish Robertson said: “It is proposed to set up a cross-party working group to tackle this important issue. This is something the Council cannot do alone and we need to work closely with our staff, our partners and our communities to support a strategy for protecting our environment into the future.”
Councillor Jimmy Gray, the Administration’s lead for the Environment added: “Reducing the use of single use plastics will be an important part of our overall waste strategy which will help us prepare for the landfill ban in 2020. We all have a responsibility to look after our environment and the Council has an important role in taking the lead in this.”
Key initiatives to date include:
- A pilot in Lochaber High School is testing the use of biodegradable Vegware products for take away meal options to replace polystyrene alternatives.
- Another initiative, led by a sixth year pupil at Glen Urquhart High School, has removed the use of plastic bottles on site. The pupil secured a grant to buy all 200 pupils reusable drinks bottles. It is hoped that this model can be replicated throughout schools in the Highlands and possibly throughout wider Scotland. The grant was provided by Aird and Loch Ness Ward discretionary funding, chosen through our participatory budgeting approach there titled ‘Your Cash, Your Choice’.
- Early in 2018, The Highland Council recruited a team of volunteer Eco Officers to help support and implement low carbon behaviour change initiatives throughout the estate. The first campaign aimed to improve how we deal with waste internally within the Council, ensuring the disposal of waste in the correct bins, thus decreasing the risk of contamination and enhancing the opportunity to recycle plastics and other disposable materials.
- The Highland Council’s waste hierarchy identifies three waste disposal options and ranks them in order of importance. The 3Rs of reduce, reuse and recycle, classify waste management strategies according to their desirability.
- As agreed at EDI Committee on 17 May 2018, a new centralised waste management facility (Materials Recovery Facility) will be constructed in Highland. This facility will primarily process residual (non-recyclable) waste from 2021 but will also recover appropriate recyclate to increase the percentage of recyclables in the Highlands.