Lochhead And Truss To Discuss UK-Wide Drinks Deposit Return Scheme

Drinks deposit schemeScottish Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead, will meet his UK Government counterpart, Liz Truss, in London this week to discuss the potential for a deposit return scheme for drinks bottles and cans across the UK to reduce litter and improve recycling.

The news comes after earlier this month the Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland published research into the feasibility of a deposit scheme in Scotland. The study concluded that a deposit refund system for Scotland would be feasible, and set out how such an approach could be most efficiently designed for the Scottish context. (See CIWM Journal Online story)

Lochhead will ask the Secretary of State to give this similar consideration in England, and is also writing to his counterparts in Wales and Northern Ireland to invite them to do likewise.

Speaking ahead of his meeting with Truss on Wednesday (3 June) morning, Lochhead said: “A scheme like deposit return has the potential to be very beneficial for the environment – reducing litter and boosting the recycling of these materials and their economic value to our communities. 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.

Liz Truss and Richard Lochhead

Richard Lochhead and Liz Truss

“Countries such as Germany, Sweden and Norway already have such systems in place, as do parts of Canada, Australia and the United States. I have already made my intentions clear that I am keen to explore the opportunities for Scotland from deposit return and I will be highlighting Zero Waste Scotland’s study to Liz Truss when I meet her on Wednesday, inviting her to do the same in England.

Lochhead – “While in the first instance I am looking at the potential of a Scottish scheme, I believe there are merits in exploring a UK-wide system to identify scope to take advantage of scale and explore common benefits”

“While in the first instance I am looking at the potential of a Scottish scheme, I believe there are merits in exploring a UK-wide system to identify scope to take advantage of scale and explore common benefits. Already, we are seeing support from environmental groups and members of the public for the idea and I await the additional evidence from industry and stakeholders in due course.”

An opinion poll, conducted for Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) by Survation, found 78.8% of the Scottish public supported a deposit refund system to cover cans and both plastic and glass bottles, while 8.5% opposed it. (See CIWM Journal Online story)

The Packaging Recycling Group Scotland (PRGS), however, has publically opposed the scheme, recommending alternative proposals to promote recycling.

PRGS, whose membership includes AG Barr, Coca-Cola Enterprises and the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF), says alternative proposals, including “existing kerbside and on-the-go recycling schemes that are already working”, offer a more effective solution.

PRGS has pledged to work in partnership with the Scottish Government and others to “significantly boost recycling and tackle littering in Scotland in the next 10 years”.

Jane Bickerstaffe, PRGS spokeswoman, said: “We do not support the introduction of a deposit return system in Scotland and recommend alternative proposals to promote recycling, reduce waste and tackle litter, which we believe will be more effective.

“Scotland has an opportunity to lead the way in increasing recycling and tackling litter by combining the unrivalled knowledge and expertise of our sector, and building on the success of other local and national government initiatives, such as kerbside recycling.”

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    • Deposits are the most discriminatory and expensive method known to recycle materials. One should not be misled to believe that paying a deposit and then returning a package for recycling to get the deposit back is the same as returning it to be refilled.
      Refilling is an excellent option for goods who do not have to travel long distances. As the distance increases the benefits of refilling are lost to the excess energy to bring back an empty bottle to the filling plant. When you ship beer in a refillable bottle you spend half of the energy to transport the bottle. In fact only half of the space is used by the product. When you ship back the empty bottle to the filling plant , you spend all the energy to transport a heavy packaging, not a product.
      Also, the deposit systems are used only for the most valuable and cleanest packages. They don´t accept a tomato can. They want a water bottle which, by default, is already washed. Having said that, no wonder those who want to set up deposits claim that the system gets better quality material: they only accept better quality material.
      And last but not least, the main income of deposit systems come from money consumers have paid and is not returned because they give up returning the package, forget it, loose the label or crush the can, in which case the deposit is lost.
      Namely, the least recycled, the more profitable is the system.

  1. This is just another of Mr Lochhead’s publicity stunts to divert attention from the fact that his Government’s recycling targets aren’t going to be met. He did the same with the 5p charge on plastic carrier bags (supported by the Director of Zero Waste Scotland) promising that it would ‘significantly reduce litter in our towns and cities’. It will be interesting to see just how much cleaner these places are next autumn.

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