Detailed work on how a potential deposit return scheme (DRS) on plastic bottles might operate in Scotland has been commissioned by the Scottish Government.
Deposit return schemes, in existence round the world, see consumers pay a small deposit that is fully refundable once the empty bottle is returned and, it’s believed, can reduce litter and increase recycling.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has confirmed Zero Waste Scotland will investigate design options and the associated costs and benefits of how a deposit return scheme could operate in Scotland’s unique environment.
Options will then be put to the public for consultation before Ministers come to a final decision on the future of deposit return.
Zero Waste Scotland has also published findings from its gathering of evidence, undertaken on the Scottish Government’s behalf, that show which areas should be further investigated.
“Clearly there are a number of issues for the Scottish Government to consider when it comes to deposit return schemes that can only be addressed by carrying out work to understand the design of a potential system. I have asked Zero Waste Scotland to start this work.”
Ms Cunningham said: “I am grateful to Zero Waste Scotland for its work so far on deposit return and to everyone who provided evidence to help us better understand the benefits of deposit return for recycling and reducing litter, and potential impacts on retailers and local authorities.
“Clearly there are a number of issues for the Scottish Government to consider when it comes to deposit return schemes that can only be addressed by carrying out work to understand the design of a potential system. I have asked Zero Waste Scotland to start this work.
“Progress will be overseen by a steering group involving representatives from the packaging industry, retailers and environmental groups, and followed by a full public consultation to ensure we are as well-informed as possible before any decisions are made.”
The latest work by Zero Waste Scotland gathered evidence around key questions identified by the Scottish Government following its initial investigation of the merits of a deposit system for Scotland. Zero Waste Scotland conducted new analysis on some of these questions, as well as working closely with stakeholders to collect more detailed information.
The work published is focused on these key questions, and is not a comprehensive review of the pros and cons of a deposit system.
Stakeholders from both sides of the debate including drinks companies, retailers, packaging companies and environmental groups will be invited to be members of the steering group.
Deposit Return Schemes
The Scottish Government announced research into the feasibility of a deposit return scheme in August last year, specifically with regards to “on-the-go” drinks packaging.
An opinion poll conducted by the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland revealed that 78% of Scots are in favour of a drinks deposit scheme, however, The Packaging Recycling Group Scotland has publically opposed the scheme, recommending alternative proposals to promote recycling.
In June last year, Scotland officials met with the UK Government to discuss the potential for a deposit return scheme for drinks bottles and cans across the UK and Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, also announced he was considering the introduction of a money back on bottles scheme to help boost recycling.
In January Scotland’s then Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead, announced he had commissioned further research into deposit return schemes.
Zero Waste Scotland led a consultation on the subject and received 63 responses from stakeholders including from ASDA, Coca Cola, Sainsbury’s and Britvic.
Coca Cola responded, saying: “We agree with Keep Scotland Beautiful who say: “The scale of the investment that would be required to roll out a DRS, and the lack of evidence that it would deliver any significant reduction in litter, means a DRS is not the right solution to the litter problem in Scotland at this time.”
ASDA said: “It is our view, however, that the introduction of a DRS would be a regressive step that would penalize people on low incomes and cause serious inconvenience for shoppers, many of whom play an effective part in recycling.”