Proposal for bottles and cans

Deposit charge plan to encourage recycling

Irn-Bru CommonwealthConsumers could be encouraged to help raise Scotland’s recycling efforts through refundable cash deposits on drinks cans and bottles.

National deposit return systems already operate in many countries, as a measure to improve recycling and cut litter.

Customers pay a small cash deposit when they buy a drink in a can or bottle, and get the money back when they return the item to a collection point. The items can then be recycled into new containers or other packaging.

Zero Waste Scotland has conducted research on the benefits and challenges of a deposit return system in Scotland, gathering evidence from a range of key players including deposit return experts and operators in other countries; drinks companies and trade bodies; retailers and logistics companies.

The model proposed included a deposit of between 10p and 20p per item, and covered all drinks and containers, including bottles, cans and cartons.

A report published today is being launched in tandem with a call for evidence to industry and other stakeholders on the role of a deposit return system.

Some bottlers have cash returns, including Irn-Bru maker AG Barr, but the system was once commonplace on a range of mainly bottled products.

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, said: “Scotland has set ambitious targets for moving towards zero waste, and we know that many drinks cans and bottles are not currently being recycled and may end up as very visible litter. 

“Deposit return systems have been used in many other parts of the world to prevent waste and increase recycling.  So this new report, which assesses how such a scheme could work in Scotland, is an important contribution to the debate about how we achieve our zero waste goals and move towards a more circular economy.

“The research explores how a deposit return system could work in Scotland, and the issues to consider in designing and implementing a system.  That’s why we are also launching a call for evidence today to understand the impacts of such a system and how it could work most effectively.”

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “I welcome the work done by Zero Waste Scotland in putting together this study and report.  And I will be interested to see additional evidence from industry and stakeholders in due course.

“A scheme like the deposit return has the potential to be very beneficial for the environment – reducing litter and boosting the recycling of these materials and their value.  As we have seen with carrier bag charging, attaching a value to something can be very effective in helping us make small but important changes.

“Countries such as Germany, Sweden and Norway already have such systems in place as do parts of Canada, Australia and the United States.  I am keen to explore the opportunities for Scotland from deposit return and will be highlighting these studies with my counterparts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to invite them to do likewise.”


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