CAMPAIGNERS have warned that a lack of confidence in travel mugs and piles of disposable PPE amid the Covid-19 pandemic could derail the war on plastic – despite a new study revealing that single-use containers have halved during the lockdown.

With more office working across Scotland logging on from home during the coronavirus lockdown, experts are hopeful the habits can kickstart a trend in turning away from single-use plastic bottles and disposable coffee cups.

A new YouGov survey, commissioned by Brita UK, has found that of those working remotely, furloughed or made redundant during the lockdown, use of bottled water has almost halved – dropping from 58 per cent to 30 per cent.

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The poll found that 61 per cent of those employed pre-lockdown are expecting to work remotely at least on a part-time basis after the pandemic has been dealt with – while almost half are now more conscious of making sustainable choices day-to-day.

Campaigners insist that a continued working from home culture could kick-start the effort needed to tackle plastic pollution as the lockdown has led to plastic bottled water consumption being cut in half.

The data reveals that, since lockdown began, there has been a 45 per cent decrease in the number of people buying bottled water on-the-go. Before lockdown, 55 per cent of the population were buying bottled water at work or on-the-go, but this has dropped to 32 per cent as a host of employees have been forced to work from home.

Research has found that almost 13 tonnes of plastic leaks into oceans every year.

Despite growing fears of increasing levels of single-use plastic accumulating during the pandemic, particularly through PPE, the new research shows a shift in attitudes.

Jill Farrell, director of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “The disruption to people’s lives has affected purchasing habits but we have still to see how this will play out in the longer term.

“Cutting back on single-use items will reduce the volume of materials we use and lower our carbon footprint, which is vital in addressing the climate crisis. “There has also been a drop in food waste and its associated emissions through people moving to a planned weekly big shop instead of regular smaller shopping trips.”

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She added: “We launched our great taste, no waste campaign with Lidl GB this week to minimise food waste and feed a family of four - all for £40 a week.

“In addition, Zero Waste Scotland’s own research has shown that working from home has reduced our own business emissions, mainly through eliminating staff commuting.”

Around 500 million single-use disposable cups are given out in Scotland every year – leading to the Scottish Government to commit, in principle, to introducing a charge of up to 25 pence on the items.

But the circular economy bill, which the proposals was included in, has been shelved by the Scottish Government amid the Covid-19 crisis, along with its climate change plan.

Some cafes and coffee shops have refused to take reusable cups and mugs amid fears it could spread Covid-19 – but these fears have been quashed by Ms Farrell.

She said: “There has been no evidence shown since the pandemic began that suggests single-use coffee cups are safer than reusables. “We would always advocate cleanliness in relation to reusing products and it is perfectly possible to make a coffee without handling the customers cup.”

Plastic and circular economy campaigner for Friends of the Earth Scotland, Sarah Moyes, added: "Plastic pollutes at every stage of its lifecycle from production through to the disposal of the end product, so it’s very encouraging to see that the consumption of plastic bottled water has almost halved during lockdown.

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“While this is positive news, with some food and drink outlets not accepting reusable cups and an increase in single-use masks and gloves, we must make sure that the fight against plastic pollution continues long after we come out of this pandemic.”

A deposit return scheme will be rolled out in Scotland in July 2022 in a further bid to reduce the amount of single-use plastic.

Ms Farrell added: “Scotland’s deposit return scheme will help reduce the environmental impact of single-use drinks containers. “The 20p deposit will give people an extra incentive to take their empty bottles and cans back to be recycled and boost recycling rates for glass, PET plastic and aluminium.”