Scotland Close to Implementing a Deposit Return Scheme for Plastic Bottles and Cans

The Scottish government has announced their plans to introduce a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and cans. As part of the plans, customers will pay an extra charge on the product they buy, and when they return the container, they will receive a refund.

The government has been working with Zero Waste Scotland on a consultation, and the plans are set to save almost £6 million per year on waste collections.

Successful deposit return schemes have been running in parts of Scandinavia and Germany for many years, and these schemes formed part of the government’s analysis of how such a scheme would work in Scotland.

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Why a deposit return scheme?

The Scottish government have been looking at a number of ways to conserve resources and a deposit return scheme is just one of their options. It is believed that the scheme would reduce litter and boost recycling rates.

Opposition to the scheme

For a deposit return scheme to be successful, it will need the support of the big drinks companies. Some of the big firms back the scheme, and some are opposed.

Coca-Cola initially opposed the scheme on the grounds of cost, but they changed their mind in January.

Other companies like AG Barr, are opposed to the extra costs that the scheme would involve, and have highlighted the potential for crime to occur.

They believe that people might scavenge in bins to collect more containers to return, and that local authority recycling facilities might be looted.

They even point out that containers could be brought from England to Scotland in lorries, with one lorry containing approximately 16,000 cans, or £32,000 in deposits.

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The deposit return scheme saga so far    

The Scottish government began research into how a deposit return scheme would work in the country in August last year.

An opinion poll conducted at the time found that 78% of people in Scotland are in favour of a deposit return scheme, however, The Packaging Recycling Group Scotland publicly opposed the scheme, and recommended looking for alternative ways to boost recycling rates.

In June last year, Scottish officials met with representatives from the UK government to discuss the potential for a deposit return scheme for drinks bottles and cans across the UK and Northern Ireland.

Zero Waste Scotland put together a consultation on the potential scheme and received responses from companies like ASDA, Coca Cola, Sainsbury’s, and Britvic. Coca Cola stated that they opposed the scheme based on the amount of investment it would require. They then changed their mind after consulting with experts on the benefits of a well-planned scheme.

A recent study by the Green Alliance found that a deposit return scheme would potentially reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the oceans by 1/3, but the Scottish Grocers Federation and Association of Convenience Stores said that they believed the scheme would be too much of a burden for small businesses.

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Success of the German deposit return scheme

In Britain, the plastic bottle recycling rate is under 60%, but in countries like Germany, the introduction of a deposit return scheme has seen rates rise to 90%.

When the government introduced the scheme in 2003, they were met with opposition from bottle companies, some of which even took the government to court. But most companies and almost every major supermarket supports and participates in the scheme.