Weekly Poll – Charges on Single-use Drinks Cups: Exemptions

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 8 August 2022, we asked a question about exemptions for charges on single-use drinks cups.

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. If a minimum charge was applied to single-use disposable beverage cups, are there any exemptions you think would be needed?

  • Yes – 59% (36 respondents)
  • No – 41% (25 respondents)


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

Charges on Single-use Drinks Cups: Exemptions

The Scottish Government recently announced plans to introduce a mandatory charge on coffee cups and other single-use disposable beverage containers. It is believed that introducing a charge will help encourage people to make the move to reusable alternatives such as flasks. Respondents reflected on the potential exemptions that should be applied to charges on single-use drinks cups.

Disabled People

Respondents commented on the impact that charges on single-use cups will have on disabled people. Respondents stated that reusable alternatives would not be suitable for some disabled people as they would not have the space to store them, or they may find it challenging to source a reusable cup that meets their accessibility requirements. Concerns were also raised about the impact a charge would have on people on low incomes who are living in poverty, which has been exasperated by the rising cost of living. As such, some respondents believed that disabled people and people living in poverty should be exempt.

“I think disabled people should be exempt in general, for example people with learning difficulties may not have the cognitive function to make a decision to use a recyclable cup rather than a disposable one and should not have to bear a disproportionate burden of expense (especially as cost of living and gas prices are on the rise, which already disproportionately affect disabled people and those on low income and its intersections).”

“At stations and on trains all cups supplied are disposable, due to being disabled I would not be able to bring a reusable cup. Those who use walking sticks or crutches or wheelchairs when travelling in trains should be exempt. Unfortunately, buffets at stations and on Scotrail trains always serve drinks in non-recyclable cups. Disabled passengers should not be expected to bring their own cups.”

“An exemption should be allowed where there is no acceptable alternative to single use containers where they are necessary for the daily functioning of individuals, though in most cases single use could be avoided.”

“Disabled people should have exemptions such as with plastic straws and cutlery. Unfortunately, as with the sunflower lanyard I can see this being abused.”

“Low income and disabled people should definitely be encouraged to get a reusable cup at a discounted cost. Should they not have the means to do this, then they should be exempt.”

“Disabilities and neurodivergence’s such as ADHD often come with memory and organisation challenges. Charges such as this could be an additional financial burden on these individuals, of which there are already many. Although the reason for this charge is understandable and could be acceptable, it could also be more beneficial to offer alternatives such as renting a cup for these individuals.”

“People with disabilities often have enough to carry to go outside and be sociable – walking sticks, wheelchairs, medical equipment so it’s a lot to ask to carry a bulky reusable bottle too. It takes the joy out of going for a coffee.”

“For those people who are disabled in Scotland, they will have enough cost of living requirements to pay for before the cost of a reusable cup can be bought. Adding a charge to single use cups is a good idea, but the timing, as per usual, is bad. The cost of electricity, gas, and fuel is going to be over £4000 in the very near future. With no resolution to this being sought soon, I think things are only going to get worse!”

Healthcare Settings

Some respondents believed that exemptions must be introduced in healthcare settings, such as hospitals and GP clinics, where reusable cups are not suitable for safety and hygiene reasons.

“Hospitals and care homes should be exempt, especially because of infection control and recent experiences of the pandemic.”

“Exemptions should be applied in care settings that require disposable items for health and safety or infection control purposes – this includes hospitals, but also at-home support.”

“People who need to take medication at specific times of the day would be hard pushed to pay 22p for a cup! I also do not think this charge should be in any medical environment. What if you were feeling unwell and didn’t have the money to pay for the cup to access water? What a load of nonsense.”

“A blanket ban is not practical from the hygiene issues of medical products to the public safety concerns in crowded hospitality venues, there are a myriad of things to consider.”

“Hospital use (for staff, patients and visitors MUST BE EXEMPT otherwise the scope for contagions will skyrocket – this is literally life and death for some.)”

Entertainment and Sports Venues

Respondents commented on whether exemptions should be introduced in certain settings such as entertainment and sports venues where single-use plastic cups are often used for safety reasons as a substitute for glass. Some believed that exemptions should be applied if there is no reusable alternative. Whilst others thought that venues should not be exempt and instead be encouraged to introduce deposit return schemes.

“Many venues/events do not allow you to bring in your own beverages/reusable cups – and insist that you purchase drinks from their vendors. They must be exempt.”

“Concerts, sports events and festivals won’t allow glass or metal containers so these need to be exempt.”

“For some venues it is more a safety feature to use disposable cups and glasses to avoid potential injury should they be used as weapons. I do think a charge here would be relevant to all venues, hospitals included, but at a discounted price as the cost of drinks, etc., is already grossly inflated.”

“Venues such as festivals and sports events should be forced to have recycling points and use recyclable cups with a deposit (this does happen at some festivals already – collecting empty plastic containers is a good way to make money). If anything, venues such as these should be forced to charge more for cups – they are closed environments where recycling and reusable containers can be controlled as people are in enclosed areas.”

No Exemptions

Some respondents reflected on the importance of taking meaningful action to address climate change and therefore believed that no exemptions should be introduced.

“We are going through a climate emergency! We need to act quickly now, and no exemptions should be in place. We should be encouraging businesses to offer reusable alternatives.”

“There are NO excuses for anyone still using any single use plastic product of any kind! There should be NO exceptions or exemptions! Lifetime use insulated mugs with sturdy handles and anti-spill lids are available very cheaply from many retail outlets, supermarkets, and websites (NO I do not sell or manufacture them, but I have used one for many years and NOT found a single cafe, garage, sandwich shop, train, ferry, bar, etc. who has not been willing to fill it for me!) – there are NO excuses!”

“I don’t think that there should be any exemptions to this as enforcing could be difficult or problematic. The charge should apply to all these types of cups, and I would have thought that the charge should increase with the size of the cup.”


A narrow majority of respondents believed that some exemptions should be applied to charges on single-use drinks cups. Respondents reflected on the impact of the charge on disabled people and people on low incomes and questioned whether an exemption should be applied for people in this category. It was recognised that single-use cups may still need to be required in healthcare settings for hygiene purposes. There was a mixed response as to whether certain venues should be exempt, with some stating that there may not be any reusable alternatives available, whilst others believed that venues should be encouraged to introduce deposit return schemes. Those who believed that there should be no exemptions reflected on the importance of taking meaningful action to tackle plastic pollution.