DUMPED plastic wasted has soared during lockdown as Scots believe products are a lot safer to eat when packaged, a new study has found.

A new Populus poll released  today found that two in three Scots are concerned about an increase in plastic waste during lockdown.

It is thought that plastic use has risen during lockdown as some people believe produce like fruit and vegetables are more hygienic and safer to eat if it is wrapped in plastic.

And the poll found that 84% of Scots believe more compostable packaging should be used to wrap food as an alternative to plastic.

Two thirds of Scots surveyed also believed the food industry should lead a move toward compostables and a similar proportion said they were even prepared to pay more for the privilege.

Scottish Environment LINK, the coalition of more than 30 leading charities and organisations said action was needed, warning that in recent weeks streets and beaches have become "littered" with single-use plastic pollution.

It comes as it emerged that illegal dumping of waste nearly doubled in Scotland in April after the coronavirus pandemic lockdown meant that most recycling centres were shut and more than half of the nation's 32 local authorities cut waste collections.

READ MORE: Video: Health concern over plastic pollution on Scottish beaches

Clearwaste.com, the fly-tipping reporting website, revealed that reports of indiscriminate fly-tipping across Scotland had risen by 83% as local authorities cut back on waste disposal.

They called for action to stop the illegal dumping but say the number of prosecutions for fly-tipping in Scotland has fallen by two-thirds over three years.

HeraldScotland:

A shot of Swinstie Road, Motherwell in April as provide to Clearwaste as fly-tipping soars during lockdown

The new poll commissioned by compostable flexible packaging company TIPA and backed by the Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association (BBIA) aimed to shed new light on how the country's relationship with plastic was impacted during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The survey organisers said Covid-19 raised concerns because it was "thought that plastic use has increased as some people believe produce like fruit and vegetables is more hygienic and safer to eat if it is wrapped in plastic".

There are some concerns that the campaign to cut plastic use is in jeopardy after Covid-19 prompted a surge in throwaway plastics with fruit and vegetable wrapped in additional protective packaging and households abandoning eating out and getting more food and other items delivered.

Face masks, surgical gloves and the double-bagging needed to dispose of them are also pushing up demand for single-use plastics.

There are fears moves to cut environmentally damaging single-use products has also been undermined during lockdown through a reduction in recycling rates and a rise in demand for pre-packaged food and takeaways.

The Bureau of International Recycling in Brussels said that anecdotal evidence of increased plastic consumption was "overwhelming".

READ MORE: 'Shocking' failure by Scottish business to cut single-use plastic

Deborah Long, chief officer of Scottish Environment LINK said: “As the pandemic takes hold, people are understandably more concerned about hygiene. But plastic is a major source of pollution, from the oil and gas extracted to produce it right through to when it ends up in our soil, rivers and beaches.

HeraldScotland:

"In recent weeks, our streets and beaches have become littered with disposable, cups, masks and gloves as hygiene concerns have increased the use of single-use plastics.

"However, there are some great alternatives available, from simple paper and carboard to reusable ones, but for many of us it’s difficult to hunt down plastic-free products. For Scotland to transition to a more sustainable, circular economy it must be made easier for people to find plastic-free alternatives from retailers.” Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland said it was hard for most people to avoid plastic packaging without more action from retailers to eliminated it.

“Spending more time at home has made many people more conscious of the mountain of plastic packaging that clings to almost everything we buy. The plastic boom has been fuelled by the misperception that your shopping might somehow be safer if it is wrapped in plastic but in truth there is no need for this as long as your supermarket, grocer or fruit and veg shop are handling goods safely. The humble paper bag is less likely to harbour viruses than a plastic bag so if you do need packaging at all, paper and cardboard are better choices than plastic," he said.

Lang Banks, director at WWF Scotland added: “Sadly, there’s already enough wildlife-harming plastic waste in our environment. So the fact that the polling reveals that the vast majority of Scots remain concerned about the impacts of plastic waste is encouraging.

“We need to ensure that this public support is harnessed to halt any back-sliding by industry on their commitments to end the use of polluting and unnecessary single-use plastics, including the wrapping of fruit and vegetables.”

David Newman, managing director of the BBIA said compostable packaging alternatives can be part of the solution to the plastic crisis.

“The government wants councils across the country to collect food waste from 2023, but the success of these schemes depends on keeping conventional plastics out of food bins, and out of the soil. The best way to do this is to ensure that compostable materials are used in food packaging, and in food waste bin liners, so that food and packaging can break down safely together.

“We know the UK is heavily polluting its food systems with (micro) plastics, and compostables can help stop this. We have a huge composting industry in the UK capable of treating these materials and already doing so in many places.

“Ministers should urgently recognise the role of compostable packaging in reducing non-recyclable plastic waste, by encouraging collection of compostable packaging with food so that materials like film can be safely and effectively composted.”

Last month, environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said she had “real concerns” over the “rapid return” of disposable items such as plastics during the public health crisis.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We recognise the importance of communicating with the public about how best to manage and dispose of waste at this time.  We have supported the launch of a national campaign to communicate key messages about waste disposal and collection at a household level. The campaign website offers lots of safe ways to help people avoid waste and protect the environment.

“In addition, the Scottish Parliament recently passed legislation which will establish a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for single-use drinks containers which will increase the amount of plastic we recycle, helping to build a more circular economy that will be crucial in our journey towards becoming a net-zero society.

“Fly-tipping is illegal, dangerous and unnecessary. The Scottish Government has provided SEPA and local authorities with the powers to fine anyone caught flytipping, with a minimum fixed penalty of £200 and a maximum fine of £40,000.”