20p refundable charge on containers

Bottle return scheme puts Scotland ahead on recycling

throwaway bottles litter

Ministers want to reduce the volume of discarded drinks containers (pic: Terry Murden)


A 20p refundable charge will be added to drinks bottles and containers sold in Scotland in an ambitious bid to increase recycling and tackle litter.

The new Deposit Return Scheme will include aluminium and steel cans as well as drinks containers made of glass and plastic. The scheme aims to capture 90% of drinks containers for recycling within three years.

It is based on experience in other countries and will be widely accessible, with all shops which sell drinks offering deposit refunds to customers.

However, one business group said ministers had ignored its concerns over the impact on smaller retailers and their ability to store containers returned to their shops. Another organisation said the inclusion of glass will drive up the cost of the scheme which will be passed on to consumers.

Colin Borland of the Federation of Small Businesses said: “A bottle deposit scheme is undoubtedly a popular idea. But it is understandable that those that run the very smallest shops have concerns about storage.

“That’s why we’ve been working with officials, underlining the importance of an opt-out for those without appropriate capacity. We’re unhappy that the Scottish Government hasn’t taken on board our concerns, despite a commitment to address the problems such a scheme poses for small retailers. Ministers need to explain to those that run the smallest shops how this scheme will work for them.”

Bottle returnScottish Retail Consortium spokesman Ewan MacDonald-Russell said: “The inclusion of glass will add an additional £50 million per annum to the cost of running a DRS; a cost that will end up being paid by consumers. Glass is a difficult, bulky, and heavy material to manage and will be an enormous burden, especially for those operating from smaller stores.

“Similarly, charging ahead with a Scotland-only scheme rather than working collaboratively on a pan-UK approach may affect the range and price of those products in scope. For example, to prevent fraud, Scottish drink containers will need to be labelled differently from those in the rest of the UK. That will impose enormous costs on retailers and producers, and could even place a question mark over the economic viability of selling some products north and south of the border.”

The Deposit Return Scheme Implementation Advisory Group is providing industry input and guidance on the scheme’s interaction with consumers, producers, retailers and the hospitality industry, which will be key to its success.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Scotland was the first part of the UK to commit to a deposit return scheme as part of our wider efforts to prevent discarded drinks containers from ending up in our streets and seas.”

She said the scheme is “ambitious in scale and scope, and which gives the people of Scotland a clear and straightforward way to do their bit for the environment.”

Jill Farrell, chief operating officer at Zero Waste Scotland, said the scheme will be a “game-changer” for recycling and the circular economy in Scotland.

“By giving people an extra incentive to do something good for our environment, and having a consistent approach across Scotland, we are confident it will be easier for all of us to do the right thing. This will improve the volume and quality of recycling and help tackle litter in the process.”

Scottish Labour spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change, Claudia Beamish, said: “There is much to be welcomed in today’s announcement. Thanks must go to fantastic campaigns led by Have You Got The Bottle? and the Marine Conservation Society for joining us to pushing the Government to getting to this stage.”

She disagreed with the retail industry’s concerns over the inclusion of glass. “It is right that glass is included, and there will be producer responsibility through a not for profit operating model.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat energy spokesperson Liam McArthur, said: “This is the right thing to do to end our throwaway culture.

“The next step must be moving urgently to tackle the mountain of coffee cup waste through a latte levy, preventing millions of cups going straight to landfill.”

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