Weekly Poll – Single Use Plastic Cups: Communicating the Charge

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 7 November 2022 we asked a question about a charge on single use plastic cups and how to communicate the charge to the public and businesses.

Please note that this is a snapshot of the views of our membership and does not reflect a policy stance of Disability Equality Scotland. If you plan to reference the findings featured in this report, please contact us in advance so that we are aware of this.


Question. Do you have any concerns on how a charge on single-use plastic cups will be communicated to businesses and the public?

  • Yes – 76% (59 respondents)
  • No – 24% (19 respondents)


We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Charges on Single-use Drinks Cups

The Scottish Government recently announced plans to introduce a mandatory charge on coffee cups and other single-use disposable beverage containers. Around 200 million single-use disposable beverage cups are used every year in Scotland, with this figure expected to rise to 310 million by 2025. Zero Waste Scotland estimate that disposable cups generate around 4,000 tonnes of waste each year, with around 40,000 of these cups littered in Scotland annually. Due to their waterproof plastic lining, they can be hard to recycle, resulting in most of them being incinerated or sent to landfill.

Communicating the Charge

The majority of respondents 76% (59 respondents) stated that they are concerned on how the charge on plastic cups will be communicated with the public and businesses.

Key Messages

Respondents commented on the key messages that must be shared with the public ahead of a charge coming into place. It was noted that this would be a vital step to ensuring that the public are aware of the charge and can take the necessary steps to prepare for its introduction; for example, by sourcing a reusable cup.

“I suspect that there will be issues between some companies and the public as it is with anything new there is a certain amount of uncertainty or unknown of exactly how things will go.”

“Will the public be given a period to sink in before it becomes mandatory? Perhaps inviting people to bring mugs or whatever needed with them in future for a while until they charge. I would also want to know how much the liquid weight be per usual cup. So that if people bring a cup with them instead of paying -they know what size to bring and don’t get short-changed i.e., if the person brings a small cup when normally a ‘cup’ is twice the size etc. But I think it’s a good idea and support it.”

“I think people who care about the environment are already looking at (and using) alternatives to single use plastic cups. The people who still use them are likely to ‘switch off’ at the mention of environmental impact, so the aim needs to be to interest them in a more economical/cheaper and perhaps fashionable alternative. This I think is what needs to be put across to businesses.”

Some respondents reflected on the impact the charge may have on businesses and staff, thus highlighting the importance of being clear with the public on why the charge is being introduced.

“I work in Greggs and we do offer a reusable cup with a free drink on purchase then a reduced cost when reused. We have offered this for a long time. It’s down to people just not being bothered to bring cups. It will be like the carrier bag charge the shop. Staff will take the brunt of the complaints, especially while people are finding money tight at the moment. It is the customers responsibility to bring their own cup as they wouldn’t use a cup in their own home and then throw it away, but they won’t see it that way. The only exception would be on just eat delivery the charge would need to be applied. They won’t do it until they are made to do it because I see the number of hot drinks we pour, and a handful of cups are reusable, sad to say but true. It’s also across all ages from school children to pensioners.”

“To get the public on board there needs to be clear messaging on why this is important for the environment. This will help to change people’s behaviours and encourage reusable cup use. It will also help to avoid any potential conflict with staff.”

Accessible Formats

Respondents commented on the various communication channels and formats that must be utilised to share key messages to the public and businesses across Scotland. There was recognition that to achieve this it is vital to incorporate the principles of inclusive communication and share information in a variety of formats that meet the communication strengths and preferences of each individual. For example: Some people may require information in formats such as audio, braille, British Sign Language, Easy Read or large print.

“There could be language barriers. Will the information be made available in BSL/Braille?”

“Information needs to be in a variety of accessible formats via a range of channels including TV and social media. Disabled people should not be additionally penalised for their needs to be met.”

“I am on the mailing list of several organisations and that is where I find out about things like this. So, I would also find out about this through Disability Equality Scotland’s communications, Inclusion Scotland’s, Disability Information Scotland’s, and the Scottish Churches Disability Group’s. Some of these organisations issue a newsletter once a month, others once every 2 months. So, there will need to be at least a 3-month window to meet copy deadlines.”

“I don’t have a TV licence so to reach me, the messaging needs to be not only on TV. I also don’t listen to the radio. I see adverts on buses (on the sides of buses and inside buses on the TV monitors) and on bus stops so that would be a good place for me to see the messaging. Something simple and visual would work best for me, like a picture of a cup and a snappy, quick-to-read strapline like ‘cups will cost’. Then I will be able to read it before the bus shelter advert rotates to the next advert or before the bus goes past. Nothing clever and it needs to be explicit / unambiguous / clear for me.”

“Not everyone has the internet so thinking about how we get the message out to people who are digitally excluded is very important.”

General Comments about the Charge

Respondents reflected on more general concerns about the introduction of a charge on single-use plastic cups, including the impact on disabled people and the practicality of sourcing an storing a suitable reusable cup.

“I don’t agree with the charge because I feel people will start to re-use cups now dirty, and it could have an effect on people’s health. Many people have a ‘nothing will happen to me’ attitude and will not consider this an issue until after an event has occurred. I cannot drive, nor do I have a wheelchair or scooter, so I am limited in how much I can transport at one time. I would rather not have this limited further because of having to carry a flask or pay more to meet up with friends.”

“It will simply put up the price of hot drinks on ScotRail trains. Being disabled, I cannot carry cups with me on trains when I travel. I have to buy my hot drinks from the buffet trolley on the train. Towards the end of the journey, the used cups are collected for landfill. ScotRail does not use cups that can be recycled because non-recyclable cups are cheaper. I could not afford the extra charge if recyclable cups were used, and I am too disabled to carry my own cups.”

“I hope we are not expected as customers to cover that cost. We have no control over what type of cups etc… they give us. I much prefer proper cups – the kind you wash and reuse.”

“How are they going to collect this money, who gets it and how do we know it will be used for its proper intention?”


Ahead of the charge on single-use plastic cups being introduced in Scotland, respondents highlighted the importance of ensuring that key messages are shared with both businesses and the public. To achieve this, there is a need to use a variety of channels and accessible formats which incorporate the principles of inclusive communication. Some people may require information in formats such as audio, braille, British Sign Language, Easy Read or large print. Respondents reflected on different communication channels, such as TV advertisements and posters on public transport, with recognition that online methods are not suitable for people who are digitally excluded. There was also recognition of the various membership-led organisations that can help to share key messages with their networks. Respondents reflected on the wider impacts of the charge on disabled people who may not be able to source or store a reusable cup.