Details of the Deposit Return Scheme coming to Scotland

Yesterday Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP outlined the governments plans for the new deposit return scheme coming to Scotland.

For the last few years campaigns such as ‘Have you got the bottle?’, led by APRS in partnership with a number of organisations and businesses including the MCSUK, have pushed for the introduction of the deposit return scheme in an effort to increase rates of beverage container recycling and reduce litter. A deposit return system means that you pay a bit extra when you buy a drink and get this money back when you return the container for recycling.

This is not a new idea, with not only many Scottish residents remembering returning their glass Irn Bru bottles as kids, but systems such as this have already been successfully integrated into a number of countries such as Germany, Norway, and Estonia, and are highly efficient systems seeing return rates of up to 95%.

This time last year the Scottish government agreed to introduce the system with the English government following suit a few weeks later. Since then have been extensive consultations and yesterday the Scottish government detailed what the scheme will look like.

How will it work?

When you buy a single-use drink container, whether it’s a can or a glass or plastic (PET) bottle from a shop, there will be a 20p deposit added to the price. You will then get this 20p back when you return the empty can or bottle to the retailer. This can be done either over the counter or by using a reverse vending machine which scans the bottle and refunds you the deposit. All types of drink containers between 50ml and three litres will be included. However, HDPE-made plastic bottles, typically used to carry milk, will not.

Roseanna Cunningham using a reverse vending machine at Edinburgh zoo.

It is said that there will be a number of ways to get the deposit back such as cash at a till, a token or discount voucher, or digitally. Shops of all sizes will be required to comply with the scheme, including those in rural areas.

The Scottish government says an independent, privately-run, not-for-profit company will be in charge of the scheme, with the system being paid for through unredeemed deposits, revenue from the sales of the materials, and a producer fee. Later this year the legislation will be introduced and, once the necessary regulations have been passed, there will be an implementation period of at least 12 months before the scheme is running.

While there has been a lot of positive responses to the announcement, and previous success in other countries, there are still those concerned with how the scheme will fit into current recycling practices and everyday life. For example, how will smaller shops cope with the added work involved and how easy will it be for those in rural areas to return their bottles?

To see the full speech for Roseanna Cunningham in Scottish Parliament click here.

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Abi Gardner

I'm a Ecosystem Services (MSc) student at The University of Edinburgh, with a background in Environmental Geography. I'm passionate about ecology, biogeography, environmental management, sustainability and climate change.

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